But he responded with perhaps two of his best of the day in golf’s version of overtime.
Weldon, the 2010 champion, double-bogeyed his final hole of regulation to finish the tournament at 8-under par and in a tie with Jaylon Ellison. But Weldon matched the Anniston, Ala. native for two holes of a sudden death playoff before winning the 76th Annual tournament on the third playoff hole at the LaFayette Golf Course.
“It feels great,” Weldon said after handing the trophy to his daughter, Avrie. “I should have won this one a lot sooner tonight, but still, I played pretty well and it always means a lot to me to win out here.”
Weldon hit two balls into a large section of green under repair on the par-4 18th hole before missing a 12-foot bogey putt that would have won him the title by one stroke. However, his putt slid just just past the cup and he tapped in for a six to tie Ellison for the lead after 36 holes.
After taking the 18-hole lead with a 7-under par 65 on Saturday, Weldon carded a 35 on the front nine on Sunday, but bogeyed the 13th hole and missed a short birdie putt on the par-3 14th after sticking his tee shot to within five feet of the flag.
However, he bounced back to birdie the next three holes and carried what he believed was a comfortable lead heading to the 18th tee.
Defending champion, Heath Jones, playing with Weldon in the final foursome of the day after an opening-round 69, birdied four of the first five holes on Sunday to briefly tie Weldon for the overall lead.
But the Trenton native would have to settle for bogey at the par-4 seventh after missing a short par putt, and he would bogey the par-4 ninth to finish the front nine at 2-under par. He couldn’t find the magic on the back nine, though, recording eight straight pars before a bogey at 18 left him four shots off the lead.
Tre Lamb teed off with the final group on Sunday after a 5-under 67 on Saturday, and he recovered from an opening bogey on the par-5 first hole to eagle the par-4 third after driving the green.
But the former Calhoun High and current Tennessee Tech quarterback had three more bogeys and just two more birdies the rest of the day for an even par 72.
Josh Jackson, a two-time tournament champion, also began the day just two back after an opening-round of 67, but Jackson went out in 42 on Sunday and stumbled to a final round score of 3-over par 75.
Meanwhile, one group ahead, and unbeknownst to Weldon, Ellison, four shots back to start the day, was making a serious charge toward the top of the leaderboard.
Four birdies and two bogeys on Sunday’s front nine put the former Jacksonville State University golfer at 5-under par overall at the turn, and he would collect birdies at 13, 14, and 15 before shooting par on the final three holes to end the round with a 67, tying him for lowes score of the day with former champion Ron Bohannon.
He then watched from the practice green as Weldon’s bogey putt came up short, sending the tournament championship to extra holes.
“Heath was on fire to start out today,” Weldon explained. “But when I got a birdie on No. 9 and Heath bogeyed it, I knew I was a few shots up on him. We just went on going with pars for a while, but then I got the three birdies in a row, and I’m thinking it’s over going into the last hole because I thought I had a five-shot lead. I no idea what (Jaylon) was doing ahead of me. I guess it would have been nice to have known that information before I butchered 18.”
Both players birdied the par-5 first hole, but Weldon’s drive at the par-4 second missed the fairway and came to rest under some tree branches in deep rough to the left.
His low-runner from 155 yards out landed nearly 80 yards short of the green, but it kept bouncing and rolling before finally coming to rest just on the front edge of the green. He would two-putt to match Ellison’s par, sending the match to a third playoff hole.
“I have no idea how that ball made it onto the green,” Weldon admitted. “I had to use a 6-iron to keep it under the trees, and I had to hit it out of the deepest rough on the course, maybe six inches deep. But it must have come out with a lot of top spin or something, and it somehow it got to the green.”
Both players’ drives missed the narrow fairway to the right at No. 3. Ellison’s shot nearly landed on the tee box on the seventh hole, while Weldon’s drive ended up two feet to the right of the cart path in more difficult rough some 110 yards from the center of the green.
But a bump-and-run with an 8-iron again did the trick as it came to rest on the backside of the green, some 20 feet from the hole. Ellison, however, pitched his second shot short of the green, and another pitch left him with an eight-foot putt for par.
Weldon two-putted for his par, then looked away and held his breath as Ellison’s attempt to extend the match just missed wide.
“I figured that the longer (the playoff) went on, the more I could get my composure and I’d be alright,” Weldon said. “Sure enough, when he hit his tee shot right on No. 3, I knew he was as bad off as I was.
“I’ve had to play that 8-iron shot before, several times actually, and I was just glad it stopped on the green. I’ve had to go to playoffs in this tournament before and lost. I just had to find a way to regroup. I probably have more experience coming in second than anyone else out here, so I just tried to hang in there. Maybe that paid off for me today.”
Jared Willerson took third place at 5-under (139) after beating Lamb on the third playoff hole. Willerson carded a 70 on Sunday after shooting a 69 on Saturday.
Jones and Ryan Cannington each shot a 1-under 71 on Sunday to finish at 4-under (140) for the tournament. Logan Killen shot rounds of 72 and 69 to finish at 3-under (141), while Jackson finished eighth overall at 2-under (142).
Past champion and tournament regular, Ken Maples, Jr., needed four extra holes to claim the first flight title at 1-under par (143), while Jeremy Reigger (151) won the second flight in a scorecard playoff.
A scorecard playoff was also needed in the third flight where Gary Carroll (159) was crowned the winner. The fourth flight was won by LaFayette High School golfer Kurt Ingram (169).
LaFayette Golf Course head pro, Eddie Jackson, said it was the one of the best Chicken Dinner tournaments he had ever been associated with.
“It’s my eighth year running the tournament and it’s by far the smoothest one we’ve ever had as far as weather, compliments, number of golfers, and quality of play,” he explained. “It was a great tournament and you have to love it when it comes down to a playoff. We had two guys worthy to be the champion, but Shonn was able to find a way to get it done.”
Many players in the tournament field wore orange ribbons on their hats in support of LaFayette High School student, Austin Whitten. Whitten, a 15-year-old rising sophomore, is currently paralyzed from the chest down due to a swimming accident last weekend.