MYRTLE BEACH — Gary Carpenter Sr. and Jr. entered the 15th annual Golf Dimensions National Father & Son Team Classic played on eight Grand Strand courses as the two-time defending champions.
Missing from the two victories, however, was the satisfaction of revenge over Mike and son Brock Zeeb of Sturgis, Mich., who edged the Carpenters by a stroke for the title in 2006 but haven’t participated in the past four years for a variety of reasons.
The Zeebs made a triumphant return, giving each duo two of the past six trophies and creating a full-fledged friendly rivalry between the two families in a tournament that featured 804 players this year.
In a head-to-head duel in Saturday’s final round at Myrtlewood Golf Club’s Pine Hills Course, the Zeebs matched the Carpenters’ 64 in a two-man scramble format to protect a two-stroke advantage through 36 holes.
“I think what’s part of it is how competitive both fathers and sons are, and they really want each other pretty bad,” Brock Zeeb said. “It was jab for jab out there. They were on us and we were on them. Every time somebody faltered the other group was capitalizing on it.”
The Zeebs, of Sturgis, Mich., shot 64 in better ball at Long Bay Club on Thursday, when Brock made six birdies and an eagle, and shot 70 in modified alternate shot at Founders Club of Pawleys Island on Friday for an 18-under 198 total. The Carpenters shot 65 in better ball and 71 in modified alternate shot.
“We want to win every time we tee it up, but if we can’t do it, it couldn’t have happened to two nicer guys,” Gary Carpenter Jr. said.
Mike Zeeb, 57, is a 12-handicap and a shipping and receiving foreman for Kadant Johnson Inc., and Brock, 32, is a 2-handicap who played in the NAIA Division I national championship while at Bethel College in Indiana, and is now an IRS agent.
They have played in eight Father-Son events. They didn’t contend in 2007 when Mike was having right shoulder issues, and skipped the past four years because of Mike’s shoulder surgery, Brock’s acceptance of a new job and the birth of Brock’s son, Hunter.
“The handicap has gone up a lot just because I have a kid and don’t get to play as much, but when you’re getting ready for a tournament I get myself out there and start preparing again,” Brock Zeeb said.
The Carpenters are members of Crofton Country Club outside Annapolis, Md. Gary Jr., 37, is a wholesale liquor salesman and a plus handicap who previously played mini-tours, while Gary Sr., 60, is a 38-year State Farm insurance agent with a single-digit handicap.
In the 2006 Father-Son event, the Zeebs shot a 59 in the final-round scramble to overcome a five-stroke deficit to the Carpenters through two rounds. The teams were paired together in the first round in 2007.
“I actually told Brock after about three holes [in ’07], ‘You’re a cool guy and we’ve had a great time so far, but I’m not going to lie, you broke my heart last year,’” Gary Carpenter Jr. said. “We became friends ever since and we stay in touch constantly.”
The Carpenters won not only the last two Strand father-son events, they have also won the past two European Father-Son Championships at El Rompido Golf Resort in southern Spain. The two events share reciprocal entries and non-flight expenses to their winners.
They will return to Spain in late October as the defending champions of the tournament, which features 90 teams from about 40 countries, and the Zeebs plan to accompany them as reigning champs on the Strand. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience with your dad and we got to do it twice,” Gary Carpenter Jr. said. “… We’re trying to go over as a four-way American contingency and do some damage over there.”
Both teams hope to carry the games they displayed this week. The Zeebs began Saturday’s final round with a two-stroke lead over the Carpenters, and both teams started their rounds with four consecutive birdies, holing several putts of 20 feet or more. “It was intense coming right out of the gate,” Brock Zeeb said.
On the round’s 12th hole, Gary Carpenter Jr., chipped in from the edge of a hazard for birdie to pull within a stroke of the Zeebs, who made bogey. “We knew we had the opportunity. The door was there,” Gary Carpenter Jr. said.
But the Carpenters missed the green on the next par-3 and made bogey, and Brock Zeeb hit a 5-iron to 6 feet and his father made the birdie putt to push the lead back to three strokes. “The door was shut,” Gary Carpenter Jr. said. Both teams birdied two of their final three holes.
“We rode the old horse today with the putter,” Brock Zeeb said of his father. “It’s probably the best putting round I’ve ever seen him have. He putted phenomenal in ’06 when we came back and shot 13 under and won, and he putted better today. That’s what it’s all about is coming through in the clutch, and he made a lot of clutch putts today.”
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.