Tom Keegan: Andy Spencer defends Watson Challenge title, edges Tom Watson by one stroke

Olathe — All in all, not a bad Sunday afternoon for University of Kansas rising junior golfer Andy Spencer.

Withstanding an impressive charge from the ageless Tom Watson himself, Spencer shot even-par 72 to defend his Watson Challenge title by finishing the three-day tournament at Shadow Glen at 8-under par, one stroke ahead of Watson.

Spencer, No. 1 player on the KU golf team that last month made the school’s first trip to the NCAA tournament finals in 18 years, shot 70-66-72. Watson, who shot 67-72-70, birdied No. 18 to ensure that Spencer was not going to back into the victory with a bogey on the final hole. Spencer, playing in the last group, one threesome behind Watson, needed to par the par-5 final hole to win by a stroke and he did so with a tap-in second putt.

Spencer also won the Watson Challenge last year.

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Andy Spencer

It was nice timing for Spencer to be in the presence of the eight-time major and five-time British Open champion, considering that Spencer’s next competition comes in Scotland. Spencer is competing in the British Amateur at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, starting June 18.

“I asked Mr. Watson a few questions about playing in Scotland,” Spencer said. “I’ve never been over there and obviously he’s played great there.”

The advice?

“He told me a few things: ‘Stay out of bunkers. Putter’s never a bad club to hit.’ He’s great. He’s awesome,” Spencer said of the golf legend who beat his age Friday.

Playing the final day with former KU golfers Tyler Docking, a member at Shadow Glen, and 2017 Big 12 champion Chase Hanna, Watson, 68, often was as far as 50 yards behind his playing partners off the tee, but hit it so straight and had his distances so dialed in that he made the distance disadvantage irrelevant.

Spencer’s father, Jeff Spencer, a KU baseball player from 1987-90, caddied for his son.

“It’s great,” Andy said of having his father on his bag. “He’s a pretty calming influence out there, been through a lot together. He knows exactly what I’m thinking at the right times. He’s great. It’s awesome.”

The annual Watson Challenge benefits The First Tee of Kansas City program, for which Watson is a tireless advocate.

Twenty-seven miles to the west of Shadow Glen, at Eagle Bend, David Rismiller and Jason Seeman defeated William Gantz and Tyler Cummins on the third playoff hole to win the Kansas Four-Ball Championship. Kit Grove and Josh Williams finished third, one stroke behind at 12-under.

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