Peyton Sliger wins Tennessee State Amateur
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It was both a blessing and a hindrance for
Peyton Sliger to shoot a tournament-record 8-under-par 62 in the
second round of the Tennessee Amateur at historic Holston Hills on
Wednesday. That great round vaulted him into the 36-hole lead, but it
also placed more pressure squarely on his shoulders.
2015 TN State Amateur winner Peyton Sliger (TGA photo)
After going that deep, could Sliger, a senior who plays for Lee
University, back it up for two more rounds and win?
As it turned out, he could. Shaking off a bogey-bogey start, Sliger
regrouped after falling two strokes behind Chattanooga junior Wes
Gosselin and won the tournament with a three-foot birdie putt on the
That closing birdie allowed Gosselin to shoot his third 69 of the
tournament and left him at 11 under par, one shot ahead of Gosselin,
three ahead of Austin Kramer of Knoxville and four clear of Tim
Jackson, the defending champion who finished solo fourth.
The victory was historic—this was the 100thplaying of the tournament
that began in 1913. The importance of winning a trophy with the
names of Cary Middlecoff, Lew Oehmig and Jackson engraved on it
was not lost on Sliger.
“I always dreamed about winning this tournament,” Sliger said. “I’m
honored to have my name on that trophy with all those great players’
names on it. Everybody in Tennessee golf knows who they are. It’s an
Sliger didn’t feel so amazing after he stepped off the green at the par-
4 second hole on Friday, having made his second consecutive bogey.
Combined with a birdie by Gosselin, those two dropped shots cost
Sliger his lead; at 8-under par, he was a stroke behind Gosselin and
appeared to be sinking out of sight.
Ironically, that sluggish start was just what Sliger needed.
“I think it helped me,” he said. “I’d never been in this position before,
and I had some nerves starting out the round. After I bogeyed the
second hole, it calmed me down. I suddenly realized, ‘I’m losing now.
I need to kick it back into high gear.’ ”
Even Gosselin expected that to happen.
“Peyton struggled the first two holes,” Gosselin said, “but I knew on
No. 3 tee he was going to come back. There was never a doubt in my
Gosselin didn’t make it easy on Sliger. His birdie at the par-3 fourth
hole vaulted him to 11-under par and gave him a two-shot lead. But
Sliger bounced back quickly with a birdie at the par-5 fifth hole, and
he matched Gosselin par for par until the par-4 10th. That’s where the
tournament turned back in Sliger’s favor.
Both Sliger and Gosselin missed the green and were faced with
similar third shots.
“It was a little awkward,” Gosselin said. “We were on the down slope
in front of the green, and you needed to hit the shot with some spin, a
little bit of loft. Peyton hit his shot absolutely perfectly. I
Sliger’s chip hit the green and rolled into the hole for a birdie 3, and
when Gosselin missed his par putt, they were tied at 10-under par.
Gosselin made another bogey at No. 12 to fall a shot behind Sliger,
and when Sliger made a birdie at the par-4 15th, he seemed to have
given himself some breathing room for the stretch run. But Sliger
missed the green at the 494-yard par-4 17thand couldn’t convert his
five-foot par putt, dropping his lead to a precarious one shot heading
into the reachable par-5 18th.
Gosselin pounded a drive down the middle of the fairway and reached
the green with a utility club, leaving him a downhill 25-footer for
eagle. Sliger well behind Gosselin off the tee, laid up to within 63
yards, a position from which he felt confident after a summer’s worth
of work on his wedge game.
Sliger pulled a lob wedge and hit a shot that carried 70 yards, safely
past the hole, and spun back to within three feet. That forced
“I had a tough putt for eagle,” Gosselin said. “It was down hill and
breaking a lot. With Peyton in there three feet for birdie, I knew I
needed to give it a run.”
That’s exactly what Gosselin did. His ball wound up five feet past the
hole, but he drained the comeback birdie putt, and for a second, he
was tied for the lead. But Sliger, who’s also been working hard on his
putting, stepped up and drained his putt for the win, giving the young
man named for Peyton Manning an accomplishment even the great
quarterback could admire.
“There aren’t many more people you’d rather be named for than him,”
Sliger said. “He’s a great ambassador, not just for the game of
football, but life in general. He’s an example of how to handle
yourself. I’ll never accomplish anywhere near what he’s done, but
winning this tournament, seeing my name on that trophy with all
those great players who have won it before, that’s a cool
Story by Chris Dortch
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