Cox runs away with the Orlando International Amateur
Kyle Cox (UT Arlington photo)
Kyle Cox (UT Arlington photo)

By Shawn Allen

With a five shot lead going into the 18th of the Orlando International Amateur, hosted on the Panther Lake course at Orange County National, Kyle Cox felt as confident as he ever has, and he wasn't going to let up.

"I've noticed that when I play more passive, I don't play as well." So Cox took his 53-hole lead and smoked driver down the fairway, hit a cut shot to pin high, and made an easy two putt to seal the championship.

Cox, a sophomore at the University of Texas, Arlington, started the day one back of the leader Luke Gifford. Like he had in the previous two rounds, he played near flawless golf, making two birdies on the front. By the end of the tournament he totaled 17 birdies and one eagle with only four bogeys -- three of them coming on the second nine of the second round.

As his playing partners Gifford and Hunter Bott stumbled on the front, each playing it +1, Cox took the lead and didn't look back. On the 11th hole, arguably the most difficult hole on the course today, a 225-yard uphill par-3 with a crosswind and the pin pushed to the back left of the kidney shaped green, Cox hit three wood.

"Hunter and I are similar distances and I saw he hit a really good 2-iron into there and it came up short. There was no way I could get a 2-iron there, so I hit three wood." He then made the birdie putt, and the rout was on.

Gifford and Bott bogeyed (or worse) a handful of times on the back nine while Cox made three more birdies.

"I just felt in control. I just felt I knew where it was going. Being in the fairway a lot helped. It just felt pretty care free, and that's what I look for. Consistency. Fairways, greens, and try and make the putt."

The closest challenge came from two groups in front of the leaders. Justin Tereshko, the University of Louisville Assistant Golf Coach (not a bad gig), started out the round with his hair on fire. He birdied three of the first five holes to take him to -9, two within the lead. But a bogey on the sixth derailed his chance at a run. He made two birdies on the back, and added in one bogey, finishing the tournament at -9.

Paul Swindell, one of Tereshko's playing partners, started the day with a bogey to fall to -6 on the tournament. If a run to the championship was going to happen, Swindell might've taken himself out of it. But he birdied three times on the front getting to two back. Then on the back, he played it even, never able to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that many in the field did the day before.

Incidentally, the third member of the Swindell/Tereshko group was Trevor Johnson, a golfer on the Louisville team. "It was the first time in my eight years of coaching that I have ever been paired with one of my players," Tereshko said.

It almost didn't happen. "I saw Trevor had finished [round two] at -7, and I was going into 18 at -6. If I wanted to be paired with him the next day, I'd have to birdie the last hole." And he did, giving himself the chance to play the final round with a player with whom he regularly plays qualifying rounds at Louisville.

The pairings were fun, but it was the championship that mattered. Cox's confidence and consistency secured the tournament while his group melted away, and Tereshko, Swindell, and Johnson were just too far back, finishing -9, -8, and -7 respectively.

This is Cox's best finish in an elite amateur field. In February, he finished 5th at the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate.

The Orlando International Am, in its 5th year, is the best event in Central Florida over the holidays. It is played at Orange County National, which hosted the Korn Ferry Finals, the tournament that determines whether Korn Ferry Tour members will earn their PGA Tour cards. And the OIA attracts elite amateurs from around the world, including golfers from 28 different countries and over 20 different universities.

How'd he win such a big event? "I just switched to a cut a couple months ago, and I played really well." Just like that, he switched. Apparently it worked.

Hopefully he keeps hitting the cut, because he'll need it next year when the tournament returns to Orange County National.

Results: Orlando International Amateur
1TXKyle CoxCarrollton, TX40065-68-66=199
T2KYJustin TereshkoLexington, KY30070-67-68=205
T2TNPaul SwindellFranklin, TN30068-68-69=205
4FLLuke GiffordBoca Raton, FL20068-64-74=206
5FLBlake DyerSt. Petersburg, FL20070-68-69=207

View full results for Orlando International Amateur

ABOUT THE Orlando International Amateur

The Orlando International Amateur Championship is an annual golf tournament gathering high-level amateur golfers from the United States of America and abroad. 54-hole stroke play championship, playing 18 holes per day.

Open to low-handicap amateurs, players who play college golf, players who have qualified for any of the current year's USGA or R&A championships, and those who have the recommendation of their country’s Federation or Association.

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