Jul 21, 2012 8:32 PM by Casey Conlon - Q2 Sports
BILLINGS - Nate Bailey says he doesn't play much golf anymore. When he does though, he makes it count.
Bailey held off a hard-charging final group Saturday to win the Men's State Am at Briarwood Golf Club, his third straight State Am crown. Bailey shot a -1 71 to finish -9 for the tournament, five shots clear of the field.
The Laurel resident started the day three shots ahead of Libby's Jim Mee, and four clear of West High product Brandon McIver. Bailey however gave his lead up on the 7th hole, triple-bogeying the Par 4 for the second straight day. Mee bogeyed the 8th to fall one back again, but a birdie on the par 5 11th tied things at the top heading into the teeth of the course's back nine.
Bailey birdied the par 4 13th to take a one shot lead once again, and Mee then self-destructed, making three straight bogeys followed by a double bogey at the Par 4 17th after hitting his drive out-of-bounds. After 13, Bailey made five straight pars to end his round, including draining a 25-foot putt on the 18th to clinch the championship.
Mee shot a final round 74 to finish -3 for the tournament, one shot behind McIver, who shot an even par 72 to finish in second place alone at -4. Jerry Pearsall (-2), Reed Platke (-2), and Jake Hedge (-1) were the only other players under par in the four-day event.
Bailey now joins Josh Hedge (2005-07), Kelly Gilligan (1993-95), Mike Grob (1983-85), Gene Cook (1971-73), Ed Zemljak (1961-64), and E.J. Barker (1917-23) as the only three-peat winners in Montana Men's State Am history.
Next year's tournament will be held at Green Meadow Country Club in Helena.