Putter carries Wicks to Oglethorpe win in last amateur start
David Wicks (Oglethorpe Invitational photo)
David Wicks (Oglethorpe Invitational photo)

By Dennis Knight for Savannah Now

SAVANNAH, GA (August 11, 2018) - Playing in his final round as an amateur at the 36th annual Oglethorpe Invitational, David Wicks wasn’t hitting the ball quite as crisply as he wanted to.

But Wicks knew if he kept rolling it on the greens the way he had been all week, he had a chance.

Wicks came back from four strokes down with seven holes to play behind a red-hot putter and shot a 69 on Saturday at the Deer Creek course in The Landings Club to edge Mark David Johnson by a stroke. Wicks shot 65-68-69—202, to finish at 14-under par in the three-day event.

The former Jacksonville University standout started the round tied with Johnson, a rising senior at Coastal Georgia. But Wicks fell four strokes behind Johnson after a bogey at the par-4 10th hole.

“It was an odd round because I fell so far behind early,” said Wicks, a native of Bexhill, England. “After the drive-able par-4 (hole No. 5), I was three back and I stopped to talk some sense into myself. I knew I had been putting well all week, and if I was patient, the birdies would come.”

The putts started dropping on the back nine. Wicks drained a 15-footer on the par-4 11th, and Johnson bogeyed as the deficit was cut to two strokes. Wicks made his three on the par-3 12th, where Johnson had another bogey, to close within one.

As the pressure revved up on the last three holes, Wicks buckled down. His biggest putt of the day may have been the 15-footer he made to save par on the par-4 15th, to stay within a stroke.

He made a 7-footer for birdie on the par-4 16th to tie the match, after Johnson burned the edge from 15 feet.

On the 17th hole, a par-3 playing 187 yards, Wicks dialed in a 7-iron to 7 feet, while Johnson nestled his tee shot to about 10 feet. Johnson just missed, and Wicks dropped another on to take the lead.

On the par-5 18th hole, Johnson, a left-hander, hit his drive into the left rough and was forced to lay up. Wicks piped a drive down the middle and decided to play it safe and lay up. He two-putted from 20 feet and watched as Johnson’s birdie putt from about 8 feet just missed left.

“I was glad I was able to give myself a chance to win,” Wicks said. “I was able to maneuver it around on a poor ball-striking day quite well.”

Wicks gained a modicum of fame in 2017, when he helped lead Jacksonville into the NCAAs at the Baton Rouge regional. After marking a 3-footer for par, he dropped the ball, which hit his foot and rolled into a water hazard beneath a bulkhead. Trying to avoid a 2-stroke penalty, he stripped down to his underwear, got in the water and fished around for the ball. He found about 30, but not his. His adventure went viral on the internet and earned an interview on the Golf Channel.

Now Wicks is ready to make some more golf memories. He will turn pro on Aug. 29 to play in the Web.com Tour’s Q-School tournament.

Johnson shot 70 and was just inches away on so many putts that turned the tournament around. But the rising senior had a great summer. He was also second at the Golden Isles Tournament in July. He shot 66-67-70—203.

“I felt like I played really good today, I made the turn in 3-under and was in a good position with the lead,” Johnson said. “I let my nerves get to me, and I tried to fight back. But I didn’t make the putts I needed to make.

“But I’m going into next season feeling good after the way I played this summer. This event gave me a boost and I have all the confidence in the world headed into my senior year.”

Joseph Chun, a rising redshirt freshman at Cal, shot 69 and finished third at 205.

Results: Oglethorpe Invitational
1EnglandDavid WicksEngland40065-68-69=202
2GAMark David JohnsonSt. Simons Island, GA30066-67-70=203
3CAJoseph ChunIrvine, CA20068-68-69=205
4TXLevi ValadezSan Antonio, TX20072-68-67=207
T5FLManny GironaWindermere, FL20071-72-66=209

View full results for Oglethorpe Invitational

ABOUT THE Oglethorpe Invitational

This 54-hole stroke play event (with 36-hole cut) has been a good mix of collegiate, mid-amateur, and senior players since its inaugural playing in 1983, which was won by three-time PGA Tour winner Gene Sauers. Entries open to amateurs with USGA handicap index of 5 or less.

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