Earnhardt wins second straight Mid-Am Championship
Beginning the final round of the 23rd North Carolina Mid-Amateur Championship with a four stroke advantages, Greensboro’s Greg Earnhardt was battling memories of past leads gone wrong.
“I’ve choked away so many tournaments when leading,” said the 47-year-old Earnhardt. “I’ve always come from behind.”
Earnhardt even talked with seven-time CGA champ Scott Harvey and longtime friend Billy Hooper the evening before teeing it up for his final 18 holes at Starmount Forest Country Club.
“Billy’s been giving me encouragement. With my back bothering me, I wasn’t even going to play [this championship]. He told me to play,” Earnhardt said.
If Earnhardt was nervous, it did not show early. He birdied two of the first three holes and held a five-shot over Steven Brame of Henderson as he made the turn.
Brame was able to apply pressure on the inward nine, making consecutive birdies on holes 13 and 14 that cut Earnhardt’s lead to two, but Earnhardt’s final round of even-par 71 was enough to claim a two-stroke win.
With the victory Earnhardt set two Carolinas Golf Association records. His 54-hole total of 203 is a N.C. Mid-Amateur Championship scoring record (204 shot by Uly Grisette in 2008 & 2010). Earnhardt also becomes the first back-to-back winner in the championship’s 23-year history.
“It was a little shaky, but I got it done,” said the Greensboro resident.
The North Carolina Mid-Amateur championship is a 54-hole stroke play event. Entry is open to any male amateur golfer who has reached his 30th birthday, is a legal resident of North Carolina, is a member in good standing of a club which is a member of the Carolinas Golf Association and has an active USGA Handicap Index that does not exceed 5.4
Savio Nazareth of Starmount Forest Country Club battled remnants of Tropical Storm Julia and his fellow Carolinas PGA competitors to emerge as the winner in the 2016 CPGA Section Professional Championship at in Wilmington.
The importance of this victory was obvious when Nazareth immediately broke into tears. Not only did Nazareth capture the first place prize of $10,000, a beautiful crystal, and a framed championship flag, he also earned an exemption into either the PGA Tour’s 2017 Wells Fargo Championship or Wyndham Championship.
That choice would normally be his. However, with this win, he wrapped up the 2016 Bob Boyd CPGA Player of the Year Award, which earned him a spot in both PGA Tour events. They will be Nazareth’s fourth and fifth PGA Tour events. In 2008, 2011, and 2012 he open qualified for the Wyndham Championship and competed in front of his hometown fans.
The week did not start well for the Guilford College graduate. Without having played a practice round, Nazareth was not comfortable at the Country Club of Landfall and shot an opening round 76.
“I made some silly mistakes,” he said. “However, I knew I could get back into contention if I shot 4-under or better the next day. In the second round, I birdied the first two holes and immediately knew I was good to go. I kept the pedal down and made no mistakes.”
After two rounds of the weather-shortened event, Nazareth and PGA teaching pro James Stewart of Old North State Club in New London shared the lead at 141 (-3). The two went to a playoff on the 432-yard 13th hole.
Stewart got in trouble off the tee, finding a large area of casual water. After taking relief, he hit his approach short right of the green guarded by a tall oak tree on the left. Nazareth, who was positioned on the right side of the fairway, then threw his shot to approximately 18 feet past the flag. Stewart’s pitch came up 20 feet short. Still away, he narrowly missed his par putt, leaving the door open for Nazareth, who calmly two-putted for the victory.
Back in college more than a decade ago, Nazareth and Guilford won the national championship over James Stewart and Methodist.
Scott Harvey has had plenty of tournaments break his way over the last two years. The 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in mid September.
In the the largest comeback since a 36-hole final was introduced in 2001, Stewart Hagestad, 25, of Newport Beach, Calif., rallied from a 4-down deficit with five holes to play to defeat the 38-year-old Harvey of Greensboro in 37 holes.
On the 37th hole, a 169-yard, par-3, Hagestad and Harvey hit strong iron shots to give themselves birdie chances. Harvey’s, from 15 feet, missed to the right. The stage was Hagestad’s, and he made a downhill 14-footer that crawled into the hole for an improbable victory.
Harvey, who won his U.S. Mid-Amateur title in 2014, clearly was disappointed, but took the loss in stride.
“I’m fine,” Harvey said. “I’ve been here before and had some tough losses. “It’s one thing to completely give it away, and it’s another to get beat like that. He just made some incredible birdies coming in.”
Emily Hawkins of Lexington won the eighth annual AJGA Girls Championship behind three consecutive 70s. The 15-year-old is in her first year with the AJGA and topped her previous best finish (T2) at the AJGA Preview at Carolina Trace.
Hawkins’ final round included a scorching end of the front nine as she tallied four consecutive birdies from Nos. 6-9 to rise up the leaderboard. The high school junior played those holes a combined 7-under-par for the tournament, highlighted by three birdies on No. 7.
Hawkins outpaced Rachel Heck of Memphis, Tenn., and Brooke Sansom of Pike Road, Ala., to win by a stroke.
Two other North Carolina golfers, both from Cary, finished in the top 15, including Emilia Migliaccio, who shot a second-round 68 to tied for 7th place, six shots behind Hawkins, and Jennifer Chang, who tied for 12th.