MACON, Ga. (July 13, 2008) – Russell Henley of Macon came back from a four-shot deficit midway through the final round on his home course, Idle Hour Club, to win the 87th annual Georgia Amateur Championship by one stroke over defending champion Harris English of Thomasville. Henley carded a final-round 69 to finish with four straight rounds in the 60s and set a new Georgia Amateur scoring record at 270.
Past Amateur champion David Noll Jr. of Dalton placed third at 8-under 272, two strokes back of Henley. Two Augustans, Josh Gregory and second-round leader Jeff Knox, tied for fourth at 1-under 279. Jay Moseley of Bainbridge fired the low round of the day, a 5-under 65, to move up to a tie for sixth place at even par with Dave Womack of McDonough. Three players – Nate Balanis of Valdosta, Jeff Belk of Marietta and 1995 Amateur champion Adam Thomas of Baxley – tied for eighth at 2-over 282.
English and Henley, who are roommates and members of the golf team at the University of Georgia, began the day knotted at 9-under, but the tie was broken on No. 4 when English carded his first birdie of the day, hitting his approach to three feet on the 486-yard, par-4. Henley, meanwhile, chipped over the green and had to settle for bogey. English picked up another stroke with a birdie at No. 5, then extended his lead to four shots with another Henley bogey at No. 7.
Like English’s comeback charge on the back nine during Saturday’s round, Henley was not going away quietly, especially with a large crowd of hometown supporters following his final group. He chipped away at his deficit with three, 20-foot-plus birdie putts on holes 9, 11 and 12. English pocketed another birdie at No. 10, but suffered his first bogey of the day at No. 13 after driving over the green and three-putting. That dropped him back to 11-under, just one stroke ahead of Henley.
On the course’s longest hole, the 629-yard 15th, English had just hit his second shot out of bounds when the horns blew, indicating suspension of play due to bad weather in the area. Play was halted for two hours and 11 minutes – from 1:40 to 3:51 p.m. After the delay, English wound up with double bogey on the hole and Henley missed a three-foot birdie attempt that would have given him a two-shot lead with three holes to play. With the comeback par putt, however, Henley took the outright lead for the first time in the round.
“That was certainly a big momentum swing,” Henley said. “I knew at that point if I played solid all the rest of the way, I’d have a chance.”
Henley thanks his homwtown and Idle Hour fans during the trophy presentation.
Still leading by one going into the par-3 18th, Henley hit his tee shot 20 feet from the hole, which was located up on the back ridge of the green. English’s shot also landed on the ridge, but rolled off towards the front of the green. His second shot slid several feet past, allowing Henley a two-putt for the victory. English parred 18 to finish at even-par 70 for the round, his only round of the tournament not under par.
Noll was the only other player besides Henley to fire four rounds in the 60s, carding a final-round 69 with just one bogey on the day.
“If I didn’t know a lot about this course, I don’t think I would’ve come away with it,” Henley said. “Harris is a tough guy to beat. I’ve been trying to beat him since I was 11.
“This show how hard I’ve been working; it really means a lot,” he continued.
Not only did Henley fire a new tournament low, he also becomes the first Georgia Amateur champion to win on his home course in nearly 40 years. Randy Strozier Jr. of Augusta captured the title at Augusta Country Club in 1969.
Idle Hour’s course played to 6,671 yards and a par of 70.
The Georgia Amateur Championship is conducted by the Georgia State Golf Association and brings together 156 of the state's best male amateur golfers for the prestigious state title first won by Bobby Jones in 1916.
The Championship format was 72 holes of stroke play over four days. The field was cut to the low 70 and ties after the second round, with the cut line falling at 10-over 150 and 75 players advancing to the weekend.
An online leader board, featuring all competitors’ complete scorecards, is available at www.gsga.org.
Founded in 1916, the Georgia State Golf Association (GSGA) received its official charter on June 24, 1924. Since that date, the GSGA has grown to one of the largest state amateur golf associations in the country, with over 365 member clubs and 85,000 individual members. With a mission to promote and preserve amateur golf in the state of Georgia, GSGA offers a computerized handicapping service, course rating and measuring, and annually conducts a full schedule of statewide competitions for men and women of all age groups. Other services include a summer-long junior sectional program, award-winning Golf Georgia magazine, membership recognition and rewards programs and a charitable foundation administering two college scholarship programs.
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