Defending champ Kilby to face Iler in LBA 40 finals

PALM VALLEY — And then there were two.

On Friday at Harlingen Country Club, Ron Kilby and Ray Iler defeated Bill Werley Jr. and Chris Wicker, respectively, to book their spots in today’s final of the 64th Annual Life Begins at 40 Golf Tournament. The two tee off at 1 p.m.

Both Kilby and Iler are no strangers to the championship round of the LBA 40, especially Kilby, who is the tournament’s two-time defending champ and also a winner in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2008.

Iler, meanwhile, took home the title in 2012, but he has plenty of experience playing “The Killer.”

“Ron and I have played many times in this tournament and he holds the edge,” said Iler. “He’s won more than I have and we’ve met in the semifinals and the finals before. We’ll have a good match and it will come down to whoever makes the most putts.

“I remember the last match we had a couple years ago, I was up one (stroke) playing the 18th (hole) when I hit the green on my second shot to within 20 feet. He (Ron) knocks his shot in to about two feet and ties the hole to go onto the next hole. He hit it into the trees and it came up in the fairway, and made another birdie and beat me. When you play Ron you have to make pars and make a couple of birdies, and then you’re in business.”

As for Kilby, he has plenty of respect for Iler.

“As in the past, in order to win this thing you have to beat out the Harlingen Country Club members,” said Kilby. “Ray’s probably playing the best of any of them and has been for the last few years, so it’s not surprising to me that Ray came out of that group and now I get to play him.”

ROAD TO THE FINALS: Kilby’s tournament started with victories against No. 16 seed Steve Brewster on Wednesday, No. 9 Frank Cohen on Thursday and No. 4 Werley Jr. in Friday morning’s semifinals.

“I got off to a rough start but played good after that,” said Kilby. “Werley is a good player and a very good ball striker, and kind of like yesterday (against Cohen) I was able to capitalize every time he made a mistake, and, fortunately, I didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes out there.”

Iler’s road to the final was just as tough. On opening day he defeated No. 14 seed Keith Schussler before getting by No. 11 seed Frank Miller on day two. On Friday morning, he beat seventh seed Wicker in 13 holes to secure his spot in the title match.

“In essence, Chris didn’t have his A game today and he made a lot of bogeys, and missed some short putts early that he normally doesn’t, and then he went down two (strokes) and on these greens it’s tough to come back from that,” Iler said. “Also, I just didn’t give many openings and I just kept making pars.”