Cooney Wins “The Big One” at Callawassie
March 9, 2008 Okatie, South Carolina
Once again, the Tasca Cup Invitational provided drama aplenty as the gritty contestants battled for the Cup to the very last hole. Lee Cooney, showing streaks of brilliance, took an early lead and held on to that lead for the wire to wire victory, convincingly winning his first Tasca Cup.
Player and host, Tom Tasca, arranged for the tournament to be held at the beautiful Tom Fazio 27 hole layout at the Callawassie Country Club. Thursday’s round kicked off the competition with perfect conditions, fast greens, tightly mowed fairways, manicured bunkers, sunny skies, and 70 degree weather. Lee Cooney jumped out to an early lead and ended the day 10 points ahead of former Tasca Cup champ Mark Talbert. Lloyd Albert, coming off a recent injury, hung close just 2 back of Talbert. Playing conditions changed dramatically for the Friday round when rain began on the third hole of play and became a torrential downpour on the always challenging Dogwood Number Six. Despite the heavy rains, the field of four gamely continued on until play was suspended at the completion of the front nine. Lloyd Albert used the rainy conditions to move to second place and close the gap on Cooney to a manageable 8 points. Talbert hung close, just one back of Albert, but Tasca suffered in the low-country monsoon and fell further back from his already trailing position. Saturday morning brought new atmospheric challenges as Friday’s rain storm turned to Saturday’s wind storm. With the tree swaying in the howling 25 to 35 miles per hour winds, the last group (only group) set out for 27 grueling holes which, reportedly, due to the genius of Fazio, included 24 holes which played directly into the gale.
At the end of the windy third round, Lee Cooney had a comfortable lead with 65 points. Talbert had recaptured second place, 6 back of leader Cooney, and Lloyd Albert remained in the hunt just 8 off the pace. Unfortunately, Tom Tasca, hopeful of keeping the coveted Cup in Callawassie, had scored poorly and fallen out of contention.
The weather continued to shake things up as overnight temperatures caused a surprising Sunday morning frost delay. Things heated up quickly once the players teed it up, Albert immediately started a charge and by the third hole had taken over second place and trailed Cooney by only 3. Talbert fought back with a charge of his own and by the end of the front nine was tied for the lead with 71 point. Lee Cooney, always a game competitor, answered right back on the tenth with a huge 5 point hole to retake the solo lead, a lead that he would retain to the very end. Talbert did keep it interesting by staging a late comeback and on the last hole had a chance to tie the tournament but his 12 foot par putt came up short.
Lee Cooney was gracious in victory, thanking his family, the tournament sponsor, Tom Tasca, complimenting his fellow competitors, and pledging his winning to the Okatie Home for Unwed Mothers.