NAPLES, FL (April 17, 2016) – Tony Gil began the final round of the Terra Cotta Invitational two-strokes off the pace. However, Gil was one of just two players to break par on the final day as he won the Terra Cotta with a three day score of 2-under-par.
"I knew (final round) conditions were going to be tough with high winds and fast greens," Tony Gil said. "My game plan was to avoid big numbers, and keep the leaders in range. I stayed patient and relied on my solid wedge game to make birdies."
When Gil reached the 17th he was one of four players tied for the lead. Gil parred 17 to maintain his share of the lead and then headed to 18 knowing birdie might win the title. The 18th at Naples National Golf Club plays as a 576 yard par-5 but unlike most par-5's the hole doesn't yield many birdies. Gil apparently missed the memo as he rolled in only the fifth birdie of the day on the closing hole to shoot 1-under 69.
Talking about his 18th hole birdie Gil said, "I had good vibes coming into 18, as I birdied it the second day."
However, the 54th hole birdie didn't come easy. Gil pulled his drive left and after some anxious moments found that it had kicked off a tree and back into play. After a lay up left him 96 yards Gil stuffed his third shot to about four-feet. From there Gil took care of the rest.
The putt gave Gil a one-stroke lead but he still had one bullet to dodge in the form of Azalea Invitational winner Andy Zhang. As Zhang stood on the 18th tee he knew that he needed a birdie to force the first playoff in the stoke play history of the event and he gave himself a chance. Zhang's third shot left him a 15-foot putt to tie, the ensuing putt burned the edge as Zhang came up a stroke short.
Beginning the day, 1-under Gil, got his round started on the wrong foot with a bogey on No. 1. But despite that stumble, the leaders at the start of the day, Andy Zhang and Andrew McCain, weren't doing anything to separate themselves from the field. So Gil continued to plod along getting back to 1-under with a 7th hole birdie and then another at No. 14 to reach 2-under briefly. He gave the birdie on 14 right back with a bogey on 15. The sequence however set up Gil's final hole heroics.
"This would rank as the biggest win for me. I've won a decent amount of junior events in the past, but this is my first amateur event win and to do it against such a strong field, it makes it even better," Gil said.
Zhang and McCain began the day tied for the lead at 3-under-par and two clear of the field. Both players where over-par in the final round with Zhang (-1) finishing in second and McCain (E) tied for third with Chris Hickman (E). Tyler Strafaci (+2) was in fifth and besides Gil was the only player besides Gil to shoot an under-par score in the final round, posting a 1-under 69.