By John Boyette
AIKEN, SC (July 23, 2011) --- When Will McCurdy headed to a sudden-death playoff Saturday to decide the Palmetto Amateur, you couldn't blame him if he was a little worried.
After all, it was his third playoff in four weeks, and "the first two went the wrong way," he said.
The third time was the charm, however, as McCurdy made par on Palmetto Golf Club's par-3 16th hole to beat Nicholas Reach.
McCurdy, a 21-year-old from Fort Payne, Ala., shot 1-under-par 69 in the final round to force the playoff with Reach, who shot 70, at 10-under for the 72-hole event. Arie Ahmad Fauzi, of Malaysia, who 3-putted his final two holes, finished two shots back and in third place.
Corbin Mills, a Clemson golfer who won the U.S. Public Links earlier this summer, shot 71 and finished in fourth. Augusta's John Engler tied for fifth, and he also won the trophy for best score among golfers in the "mid-amateur" category.
McCurdy and Reach came to the final hole of regulation all square. McCurdy's drive finished just short of the green on the par-4 hole, and Reach hit his tee shot in the fairway bunker just in front of the green.Reach's bunker shot finished about 15 feet behind the pin, and McCurdy hit his approach to about five feet. But both players drained the birdie putts to force the playoff.
"A 40-yard bunker shot, the toughest shot in golf, and I got it up and down," Reach said. "I was really happy with that."McCurdy wasn't surprised that Reach made the difficult putt.
"While he's putting you've got to get your mind right for either way," he said. "Plus, he's such a good putter. He rolls it really good. I was expecting him to make it."Tradition at Palmetto dictates that playoffs begin on the 16th, a par-3 of just over 200 yards. It wasn't good news for Reach, who had struggled on the hole all week.
After a blind drawing determined that Reach would hit first, the golfer bound for the University of Georgia hit his 5-iron a bit "chunky" and came up just short of the greenside bunker on the right.
McCurdy's hybrid shot finished on the upslope on the left side, giving him an advantage. He hit his chip to about five feet, while Reach wound up well beyond the hole.
"Even with the nerves going it was a pretty basic chip," McCurdy said.
After Reach's par putt missed, McCurdy calmed rapped his putt into the cup and a small gathering of family and friends celebrated with applause.
McCurdy praised his hybrid, which he put in his bag last week, as his "MVP this week."For Reach, the bogey was his third on the 16th for the week.
"I 3-putted it the day I shot 62, I 3-putted it (Saturday) and I made a bogey in the playoff," he said. "It's not a very easy hole. I just wish I could have gotten it up and down for par."
The victory was sure to give McCurdy some comfort after losing two playoffs already this month.
First, he lost to cousin Hunter Hawkins at the Spirit of America tournament in Decatur, Ala. Then, a week later, he was beaten by former South Carolina golf coach Steve Liebler at the Eastern Amateur in Portsmouth, Va.
Hawkins, who tied for ninth in the Palmetto Amateur, stuck around to see McCurdy win the playoff this time."My cousin was out there watching and said the playoff gods owed you one," McCurdy said.