AUBURNDALE, Mass. — A five-shot deficit for Peter French entering the final round of the Francis Ouimet Memorial Tournament appeared grim when it grew to eight after Friday afternoon's front nine at Woodland Golf Club.
Second-round leader Matt Naumec, who fired 71-69 in the first two rounds to enter Friday with a one-shot lead over Nick Pandelena, posted three-under 33 on the front nine while French was even through his first nine holes.
But French's birdie at the par-5 9th began a remarkable streak of six consecutive birdies that blasted him up the final-round leaderboard.
"When I got to 13 is when it kept going," French said of the par-3, in which he chipped in from 20 yards away after his tee shot came up well short of the green.
French down-played his birdies at the relatively short par-5s, holes 11 and 12, but said once he made his fifth in a row at 13, he "just had to keep going."
After his sixth in a row at 14, French recovered from a bogey at 15 with his final birdies at 16 and 18.
Meanwhile, Naumec, a native of Wilbraham, Mass. who will begin his collegiate career at Boston College this fall, completely fell apart on the inward nine. He made five bogeys and stumbled in with 41 to shoot 74 and settle for a second place finish alongside University of Rhode Island junior Billy Walthouse.
"I had no idea," French said when asked if he knew he was eight back at the turn. "At the beginning of the day I just put a number in my head, like 67 or something. Maybe get into a playoff."
With 30 on the back nine, French carded 66 at the nearly 115-year old course and closed the books on a three-shot win.
French was disappointed in his showing at the New England Amateur last week, where he shot a final-round 75 to finish in a tie for 22nd place. But a week before that, he was a win away from reaching the championship match at the Massachusetts Amateur. He lost 2-and-1 in the semifinals to eventual winner Nick McLaughlin.
That being said, Friday's come-from-behind victory felt pretty good.
"It's a nice way to end the summer," French said. "It's definitely special to join a few other names. It's a prestigious tournament."
French, an incoming senior at Johnson & Wales University, shared the opening-round lead with his teammates Damon Salo at Essex Country Club. But when the field headed to Myopia Hunt Club, scores went up. Only four players broke 70 on day two, including French who struggled to a 77.
He was clearly saving his best for the final day.