Justin Connelly gained the Georgia Amateur Championship, and he did it in record model.
The latest Mercer graduate broke Russell Henley’s scoring record with a remaining-spherical 65 on Sunday that gave him a 17-under-par 267. That’s one shot higher than Henley’s whole when he gained his second Georgia Amateur in 2009 on the Nation Membership of Columbus.
“My caddie saved saying, ‘Get to 18, get to 18,’ and we had been making an attempt to get to 18 beneath,” Connelly mentioned. “If I get to 18 and lose, I’ll give him the most important hug and say, ‘Congratulations.’ We didn’t get to 18, however we acquired far sufficient to get it accomplished.”
Connelly backed up his third-spherical 64 and wanted nearly each little bit of Sunday’s 65 for the title. That’s as a result of Connor Espresso, sophomore at Kennesaw State, refused to go away. The left-hander shot a 66 to complete second at 15-under 269.
The match advanced right into a two-man race early in the day. Georgia State graduate Nathan Mallonee shot a 68 and completed third at 10 beneath, however the one two contributors in the chase for the title had been Connelly and Espresso.
“I couldn’t let down in any respect,” Connelly mentioned. “I knew what sort of participant Connor is, and it confirmed (Sunday). I attempted to play the golf course (Sunday) and never myself beat myself. I wasn’t actually enjoying him, nevertheless it’s arduous when he’s making birdie each different gap.”
Connelly had a 3-shot lead on the flip, however Espresso birdied the primary three holes on the again 9 to use the strain. Nonetheless, Connelly birdied two of those self same three holes and maintained a two-shot benefit.
“It was an incredible match, and it’s the most effective rating I’ve ever had in 4 days,” Espresso mentioned. “(Connelly) was enjoying wonderful and there wasn’t something I may do about it. … I used to be making an attempt to not let him go, however he performed nice.”
Espresso nonetheless had an opportunity on the finish. Trailing by two pictures going to the par-5 18th, he had a chip-in try from the entrance of the inexperienced that appeared prefer it would possibly go in.
“That will have made that 5-footer I had for birdie really feel prefer it was 30 toes,” Connelly mentioned.
With the strain off, Connelly dropped the birdie putt and put Henley’s record in his again pocket. What started the week as a dream had grow to be a actuality. The win gives Connelly a 10-year exemption into the Georgia Amateur for so long as he’s an newbie. It additionally gave him an exemption into the Georgia Open — and a possibility to skip Monday’s qualifier for that occasion and sleep slightly late.
“I by no means thought my identify could be on the identical trophy as Bobby Jones,” Connelly mentioned. “To have this chance and have this occur, it’s by far the most important match of my life.”
Georgia Southern junior Steven Fisk shot 68 on Sunday to complete at 9 beneath and place fourth. Fisk birdied the primary three holes, however his problem fizzled when just a few putts rolled previous the opening with out dropping in.
“I knew the leaders had been going to shoot beneath par,” Fisk mentioned. “I acquired off to a dream begin and simply fell off a bit.”