Otis Park’s new sheriff goes left to write his name among legends with historic City Tournament championship

Korey Smith rips a tee shot during Sunday’s final round of the Bedford Men’s City Tournament at Otis Park. Smith carded a 1-over 73 to win the title by four shots.

By Justin Sokeland


BEDFORD – There’s a new sheriff at Otis Park, and his name is Korey Smith. And y’all should know, he’s cool. In the space of 48 hours, after rallying from a deep deficit, the new kid in town etched his name in Bedford Men’s City Golf Tournament lore.

Has a left-hander ever won this ancient event, which started in 1931? Yes, 1961 winner Laverne Fields was a confirmed southpaw. So that means Smith not only won the title in his City debut, he also made his mark from the opposite side of the ball after a 62-year run of right-handers. He made a left turn straight into some history.

With a flurry of birdies in the “scoring zone” on the front nine during Sunday’s final round, Smith pulled away to a comfortable working margin and protected that lead without much stress. He carded a finishing 73 to complete four rounds at 9-under 279. Former champion Aaron Harrell, chasing a fifth crown, struggled during the last day and settled for second, four shots back.

While the 1-over concluding score was not the hero’s epic march, nor did the expected shootout with Harrell really materialize, the lack of red-number scoring did not detract from Smith’s red-letter day. He made four birdies on the front, built a five-shot lead at the turn, and deflected any possible drama with two clinching birdies on the back. The City championship trophy might lack a little luster, but his victory had spit-shine and short-game polish.

Aaron Harrell, chasing a fifth title, settled for second place with a closing 76.

For the former Austin Peay golfer, it’s his first win since a hometown victory in Clarksville, Tenn. on his 21st birthday. That was pretty special. But with thoughts of his young daughters on his mind as he capped this triumph, the 31-year old with the unique pre-shot waggles and double-overlapped grip was overwhelmed by this moment.

“I do appreciate it a whole lot,” said Smith, who’s learning City history on the fly while soaking in the achievement. “I’m super humble. It’s been a long time. This is awesome.”

Smith started the day with a one-shot lead following his remarkable back-nine charge late in the third round. Only once did Harrell draw even, when Smith bogeyed the short second after a bladed pitch shot. Smith regained control with a birdie on the par-5 fifth (as Harrell three-putted for par) and raced away with birdies on the next two holes. Harrell played the same holes in even-par, and that three-shot swing was ultimately the difference.

“If you don’t make birdies there, you’re hurting,” Smith said. “And making the birdie on 7 (lofting a wedge to six feet) really did it. That back nine didn’t feel that solid, but it didn’t matter. I got the job done.”

Yeah, the back nine was again a formidable foe. Smith, who got to 12-under at one point. started the second side with three consecutive bogeys (short tee shot on 10, tree trouble on 11, 3-putt on 12). If he was staggering, he regained his balance with a tough birdie on 13. After his tee shot crashed into trees, his punch to the green came to rest on the fringe, 20 feet above the pin. That putt was pure, settling the nerves as well. Two more bogeys were topped by a 8-footer for birdie on the par-5 17th hole.

Ethan Stanley follows the flight of an iron shot. Stanley finished third with a four-day total of 285.

While Smith scuffled, admitting to watching his competition rather than focusing on the challenge in front of him, nobody made a major move. Harrell never recovered from his putting issues on the front (that borrowed weapon will be returned to its owner), even three-putted the ninth (when his 15-footer slid down the upper slope and finished 30 feet away on the lower level). He did birdie the 17th, but his closing 76 was his worst City score since his high school days.

“Today was not the day,” Harrell said. “It was ugly. I thought it would be different after the first hole (when he birdied from 3 feet), but after that I couldn’t get the feel with putter. It was one of those rounds I wish I could have done different, but no excuses. That’s golf. That’s the way it is, whether it’s good or bad.

“Hats off to Korey. It was probably not the round he wanted, but enough to get the win. I think he’ll be around a while.”

Ethan Stanley, who started the day five strokes off the pace, fired a 2-over 74 to settle for third. His day started with a hooked tee shot over the boundary wall on the first hole, but he showed some back-nine bravado. Trey Turner posted the day’s best round with a 4-under 68, in fact he played the final 54 holes in 6-under. His demise was an opening 77.

Other flight winners included Daylen Tidd (with three straight 73s to claim the First by 10 shots), Tyler Bellush (a final 73 to win the Second) and John Dufore (Third).

Korey Smith lofts a recovery pitch toward the flag. Smith is the first left-handed City winner since 1961.
Korey Smith finishes off his victory in the City tournament with a 1-over 73.