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Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2014

Defending champ shoots for Classic title

Sunday, July 13, 2003

(Photo)
SIKESTON -- Four years ago, Michael Connell put together the best four rounds of golf ever played at the Bootheel Golf Club.

As a rookie on the NGA/Hooters Tour, he finished an astounding 31-under par, earning his first professional victory.

This week, the 37-year-old Texan hopes for a similar result when the tour stops in Sikeston for the Health Facilities Rehab Outpatient Center Classic.

"You always try and draw from your past experience," said Connell. "Sikeston is a good golf course for me. It's a lot of good iron play, placing the ball on the right place on the greens and putting well. Those are some of the strengths of my game. I'm looking forward to playing that golf course."

Back in '99, Connell was able to beat former Sikeston champs Chad Campbell and Zoran Zorkic with three solid rounds and a spectacular one.

After shooting a 66 and a 64 on the first two days, Connell went 14-under with a 61 on Saturday to tie the course record. He fired a 66 on the final day to win the tournament by eight strokes.

That performance makes him a favorite heading into this year's tournament, which officially starts on Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m.

"Having that kind of success can be a positive and a negative," explained Connell. "It's hard to follow up good rounds with good rounds. If I am two or three under for the day, it won't seem like that good of a round compared to when I shot a 61 there."

Connell is currently 11th on the money list with $20,165. In 11 Hooters events, he has made all 11 cuts with seven top 20 finishes.

Will Sikeston be his first victory of the season?

"I sure hope so," said Connell. "This is probably the most consistent year of my golfing career. I'm getting close to playing really well."

Festivities start tomorrow morning with a qualifying tournament at 8 a.m. and will end with the final round of the pro tournament on Sunday. Admission is free.

"There are some really good, young players on this tour right now," said Connell. "You can expect to see some low scores. That (Sikeston) course is a bunch of six, seven, eight and nine irons, with several reachable par-fives. There will definitely be some low scores there."