** Story courtesy Savannah Morning News **
By Nathan Dominitz
SAVANNAH, Georgia (July 26, 2009) -- Savannah golfer Mark Silvers could have sworn off ever playing again in the Oglethorpe Invitational.
It was 2007, and he was tied for the lead after four holes of the third and final round at Wilmington Island Club. That's when he got stopped by a rules official, escorted back to the first hole and informed that he was disqualified for playing a ball that was out of bounds near the driving range.
"I should have known. That's the rule," Silvers recalled Sunday of his inadvertent violation, saying that based on markings, he didn't realize the ball was out of bounds by 3 to 4 inches. "I didn't try to argue with anybody. It was just a mistake."
It was a by-the-book disqualification, dropping him to 61st and last place for the final round.
"It hurt because ever since I played in the tournament, since I was 15, this is the one you want to win," said Silvers, 22, a graduate of Savannah Country Day and the University of South Carolina. "It's a big deal to everybody."
He was invited back in 2008 and tied for 15th at 2-under-par 211. He gave himself one last shot at what is regarded as Savannah's top amateur tournament before planning to turn professional later this year.
As he did all weekend, Silvers made the most of his shot. He tied second-round leader Chris Morris on the first hole Sunday, then fired a 4-under 67 to capture the 27th annual Oglethorpe Invitational by three strokes at 14 under.
"Redemption. Sweet redemption," Silvers said of his first Oglethorpe victory. "It makes it that much sweeter. It really does."
Silvers birdied Nos. 4, 9, 11, 12 and 17, with a bogey at No. 5. The rest were pars. Silvers said that once he had the lead, he "made aggressive swings at conservative targets."
"I played a lot better this year," Silvers said. "My ball-striking was really bad last year. I was really solid this week, nothing spectacular."
After two rounds of 5-under 66, he nearly had a third. A birdie attempt on the par-5 No. 14 not stopped a millimeter or two before the cup.
"He was very consistent, at 4 or 5 under each round," said Bo Andrews of Raleigh, N.C., an incoming freshman at Georgia Tech.
Andrews made about a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 18 for 11 under and a tie for second place with Rob Simmons of Beaufort, S.C., who also birdied the hole.
"It was a great tournament," said Andrews, the first-round leader with a 64. " I was lucky to be out here. It's great experience playing with these older players. I hope to be back next year."
The sentiment was shared by first-time entrant Morris, 20, whose 61 on Saturday crushed the course (63) and tournament (64) records. A rising junior at Centre College in Danville, Ky., Morris liked being paired with Silvers and was hoping to keep pace, but turned in a 1-over 72 to finish alone in fourth place at 10 under.
"I didn't have my best stuff today - a lot different from yesterday," said Morris, from Maysville, Ky. "(Silvers) was playing really well all day. I wasn't expecting him to falter at all. He played great."
Morris, noting he had trouble correctly reading speeds on greens, birdied Nos. 12, 16 and 17, but bogeyed Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 18.
"Four really hurt," Morris said. "It was a par 5. I didn't hit a terrible shot, but I ended up in a really bad position."
Fifth place belonged to Savannah's Doug Hanzel at 9 under, one shot better than Jack Hall of Sea Island for his second senior division (50 and older) title.
"I was just wanting to post a good round," said Hanzel, a four-time overall champion. "I didn't think I could catch Mark (Silvers) but maybe get in the top five."
Hanzel and Silvers each received crystal vases, and Silvers also collected a $750 gift certificate to the Wilmington Island Club.
Silvers also received a shaving cream pie in the face from his brother-in-law, Danny Kaminsky, and he got him good.
"It didn't taste good," commented a smiling Silvers, who said he still was relishing "the taste of victory."
Of the 62 golfers still in the field Sunday, 37 played three rounds in par 213 or better. Last year, only 22 made par or better ... The Oglethorpe Invitational is an event this year on the Skeadas Cup regional circuit. Savannah's Blaine Bunch, the pre-event leader at 121 points, tied for 11th at 6 under. Ryan Zabroske (120 points) finished tied for sixth at 8 under.