By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Kyle Long has won his last two local golf tournaments by a combined 17 strokes.
Playing on his home course as the two-time defending champion, the 33-year-old Joplin resident headlines the field in this weekend’s 61st Twin Hills Invitational.
“It’s my favorite tournament, one I can’t wait for every year,” Long said after last year’s final round. “It’s my home course, so I’m comfortable here. Hopefully I can win a few more times.”
Long posted a wire-to-wire victory one year ago while shooting a 4-under-par 212 for a 10-shot victory margin. His lead was three shots after a first-round 69 and nine shots after a second-round 70 before a 73 in the final round from the gold tees.
Long joined former PGA Tour player Rodney Horn as the tournament’s only four-time winner. Horn’s four titles came in a five-year stretch in the mid-1960s, including three straight from 1965-67.
Long also became the tournament’s sixth back-to-back winner and the first one since Rick Bell prevailed in 1999 and 2000.
The next seven finishers from a year ago are back this year.
Tug Baker was second with 222, followed by Evan Wood 225, Ryan Knell and Ryan Westhoff 227, Marshall Wesson 228 and Chris Patterson 229. Ashley Roberson and Tim Wagaman also return after tying for 10th last year at 232.
Long began the 2013 local golf season by winning the Joplin Globe City Championship with a 218 total, including a 74 at Twin Hills that was two shots better than anyone else in the field. Long won his third city title by seven shots.
Patterson captured the Briarbrook Invitational last month, and Baker finished in the top-10. Wood tied for sixth place in the city championship.
Andrew Maier has been a solid player this summer. The former Webb City and Missouri Southern golfer placed fourth in the city championship (one shot out of second place), tied for fourth at Briarbrook and lost in a playoff for the Ozark Amateur two weeks ago at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course.
Brian Kaufman returns to Twin Hills after winning First Flight honors last year.
In addition, four players are back after winning Senior Division titles last year.
John Walker won the Seniors Championship Flight, becoming the first player to win both divisions of the tournament. Walker, the 1998 Twin Hills winner, also halted the three-year seniors champion reign of Jim Weaver, the former Twin Hills greens superintendent.
Fred Baker and Doug Bowes tied for first in Seniors First Flight, and Mike Talley and Steven Mills won Second Flight and Third Flight, respectively.
The first round begins today, with tee times starting at 7:40 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The 54-hole event continues through Sunday.