CHARLESTON, SC (April 3, 2016)--Webb Simpson has won the Azalea Invitational twice, Spencer Levin and Ryuji Imada have won the event as well. Now Andy Zhang (-15), can add his name to the impressive list of champions.
Zhang, the youngest player to ever compete in the U.S. Open as a 14-year-old in 2012 methodically dismantled the Country Club of Charleston each day with rounds of 67-67-67-68. The Florida commit left a strong field in the dust winning by six over second place finisher Trent Phillips (-9).
Zhang opened the final round with a three-stoke lead and never gave his competitors a chance. After beginning the day with four consecutive pars Zhang birdied three of the final five holes on the front side to shoot 33 and move to 15-under-par. For a time it looked as if the margin of victory would be even larger for Zhang as he birdied 14 and 15 to reach 17-under-par for the tournament.
“This is such an honor," said Zhang to Tommy Braswell of The Post and Courier. "I looked at the (permanent) trophy and saw all the great names who have won this tournament.”
He did give two back with a pair of bogeys over the final three but by the time he let his foot off the gas the field was already left gasping for air. Zhang has now won two starts in a row dating back to February when he won the CB&I / Simplify Boys Championship at Carlton Woods, an American Junior Golf Association event in Texas.
Trent Phillips, heading to Georgia next year, began the day four back but saw any hopes go by the wayside after consecutive bogey's on 14 and 15. East Carolina freshman Christopher Hickman (-7) and 2015 Minnesota State Open winner Andrew Mccain (-7) finished T3 while Florida sophomore Ryan Celano (-6) rounded out the top-5.
Patrick Christovich (-5) had at least a share of the lead following each of the first two rounds and started the final round in solo second before struggling to a closing 4-over-par 75. The New Orleans resident and considered by many the top mid-amateur in Louisiana has now finished in the top-6 in three of the last four Azalea Invitational's.
Christovich was also making a bid to become the second straight mid-amateur victor following the win by Todd White last year. White (-2) finished in a tie for 13th during his title defense year.
-Tommy Braswell and The Post and Courier contributed to this story