For Shonn Weldon, 20 years was a long enough wait.
The Rossville native, a runner-up several times, finally broke through this weekend with his first Chicken Dinner golf tournament win in the 72nd annual event at the LaFayette Golf Course.
Weldon followed up Saturday’s 2-under-par 70 with a bogey-free final round of 68 to win the event by four shots.
“I’ve come in second four or five times, and I was starting to wonder if it was ever going to happen,” said the Rossville High graduate and current Bremen resident. “I don’t get to play as much anymore, but this tournament has always been special to me. I would have kept coming back forever to try to win it if that’s what it took.”
Weldon began Sunday’s round three shots off the lead, but played steady golf on the front nine.
Birdies on the par-4 Nos. 3 and 7 holes pulled him even at 4-under with Jaylon Ellison of Anniston, Ala., one shot behind LaFayette’s P.J. Shields, who carded a 1-under 35 on the front nine on Sunday.
But the complexion of the final round would change late in the afternoon.
Shields, last year’s runner-up, double-bogeyed the par-4 10th hole and followed up with a bogey on the par-5 11th. Ellison birdied No. 10, but a bad drive on No. 11 had him scrambling to bogey the hole.
Shortly thereafter, two groups ahead, Weldon collected back-to-back birdies on par-4’s at Nos. 15 and 16 to take a lead he would never relinquish.
“I got nothing going on the par-5’s today, but I didn’t have a bogey either,” he explained. “I knew coming down the stretch that there were three or four par-4’s that I had a chance reach with a sand wedge in my hand. Fortunately, I made a couple of putts.”
Safely in the clubhouse with a two-day total of 6-under-par 138, Weldon had to wait it out for almost 90 minutes before the final scores were posted, declaring him the winner.
“I first started coming to this tournament with Pat Abney in the early 1990’s, and I’ve got a lot of special memories here,” Weldon added. “All my buddies had won this thing, and I wasn’t sure if I ever would.
“But it’s a special feeling to finally win it. I’ve always thought a lot of (LaFayette Golf Course pro) Eddie Jackson, and I knew the guys here today would be excited for me to win it because of how long it took me to finally do it.”
Jay Maples won a five-way, sudden-death playoff to take second place at 2-under-par 142. First round leader Adam Weaver was third, followed by Ellison, Clay Stevenson and Levi Nix.
Bo Abney (143) was seventh with Ken Maples, Jr. (144) taking eighth place in the championship flight.
Mark Jason Green (147) won the first flight in a scorecard playoff over Hal Lamb while Mike Levorn (155) won the second flight.
Rick Hairston (165) was the third flight winner in a scorecard playoff over Austin Clark. Adam Wickham (173) won the fourth flight in a scorecard playoff over George Pasino and Kurt Ingram.