JUNO BEACH, FL (April 30, 2016) - On a wild final day at the George L. Coleman Amateur Invitational TJ Shuart in his first appearance emerged victorious from a four man playoff. Saturday was a difficult final day at Seminole Golf Club as Shuart was able to out duel Gene Elliott, Mike McCoy and Michael Castleforte. All four golfers finished regulation 5-over and matched the highest 54-hole score in tournament history.
"When I was asked (where this win ranks in my career) earlier it took me a second to find the words and I am not usually at a loss for words. It’s hard to quantify it and you don’t want to put an event on a pedestal but I would say winning the Coleman is one of the proudest achievements of my career," TJ Shuart said. "I have won the Florida Mid-Amateur and the Florida Match Play, which are huge wins in a very competitive amateur golf state. But winning the Coleman is winning at the highest level of amateur golf against the best players from around the country so it has an extra bit of prestige to it. It is one of my career defining moments for sure."
Shuart began the day tied for fifth and four-strokes off the pace set by John Sawin. However, after Sawin struggled and shot 82 on the final day the tournament was wide open. Sawin finished tied for tenth.
On the final day the wind was up and the pins were tucked away making scoring very difficult. Despite the tough conditions Shuart knew he was playing well enough to win and after he eagled the 14th he knew the window of opportunity was there. The only problem was Shuart didn't know exactly where he stood because he had made a decision not to look at the leaderboards during the round.
So even after his eagle on 14, a three-putt on 15 and a bogey on 16 the Coral Springs, FL resident wasn't sure of his exact standing. He still didn't know where he stood when he arrived at the 18th tee box and this is where things get interesting, very interesting.
Shuart drove his ball into a fairway bunker and had an awkward lie for his second shot. Still not knowing his place on the leaderboard Shuart got himself out of position with his second shot and ended up making what he called, "a good double-bogey."
It wasn't until Shuart reached the 18th green did he finally look at the leaderboard and what he saw was a momentarily disheartening sight. Shuart realized an 18th hole bogey would have won him the Coleman Invitational.
"It was a long 20 minutes between the end of round and when playoff started," Shuart said. "You are (just) sitting there thinking if I had just made bogey I would have won."
But when the three hole aggregate playoff began Shuart was able to put the 18th hole behind him. All four golfers went par-bogey on the first two holes and the group reached the final playoff hole, a par-5 tied.
Once more Shuart found himself in the fairway bunker off the tee and after a lay up he was a 100 yards out. However, playing partner Gene Elliot was on the green in two. That is when Shuart hit maybe the shot of the tournament, knocking his wedge to a foot. From there Shuart birdied as did Elliot, a two-time Coleman champion, to extend the match to sudden death.
"I made a shot when I had to," said Shuart.
On the first sudden death playoff hole Shuart managed a routine par and after Elliot bogeyed the title belonged to Shuart.
"When (it was over) it was a combination of joy, relief and honestly exhaustion," a very happy Shuart said. "This is a full week, you get in early to prepare and you are walking the course so it is a mental challenge as well. The tournament ended out on the course and the spectators were in carts and everyone was getting rides back but I took a moment to walk back to clubhouse with my caddy (Matt Baran) and I felt like I just needed that moment to enjoy it and let it set in.
Shuart shot scores of 71-75-75 on his way to win. Elliot, McCoy looking for his fourth Coleman Invitational title and Castleforte finished tied for second.
Bill Williamson and R.J. Nakashian tied for fifth at 6-over-par.