courtesy Georgia Golf Association
Harris Barth, a rising senior at the Westminster School, mastered the slick greens at the Cherokee Town and Country Club on Sunday to win the 100th Georgia Amateur Championship.
Barth began the day two shots off the lead and produced a 4-under 67, the low score for the final round, to finish at 8-under 276.
The championship appeared headed for a playoff. University of Georgia golfer Will Kahlstorf of Watkinsville birdied the 17th hole and began the final hole tied with Barth. Kahlstorf’s approach to the par-4 18th hole landed in the right greenside bunker. His explosion shot was good, but stopped five feet above the hole. His par putt slid by the left edge, giving the Robert H. Martin Trophy to Barth.
“I figured I was close to the lead, but after I made the putt (on 18) I asked my caddie and he said I was two up,” Barth said. “Then Will came in with a birdie on 17, a great birdie there, and … it ended in an interesting way. It was fun to be a part of it. "
Barth said he didn’t begin to feel nervous until the 14th hole. He credited caddie Chap Priestley for helping him stay loose and distracted between shots. Priestly, who plays golf at Marist and often joins his buddy for rounds at Settindown Creek, said there was a lot of basketball talk over those last four or five holes.
Barth had a three-shot lead with three holes left, but didn’t know where he stood. He refused to look at the scores or ask about the standings in order to stay focused. He didn’t want anything to interfere with his game plan.
“I think if I had known the score, I probably would have pressed a little more,” Barth said. “Instead I was playing my game. It helped me say calm. I told my caddie, ‘Only tell me the score if it’s absolutely necessary.”
Barth couldn’t overcome a poor drive at 16 — his least favorite hole on the course — and wound up with a bogey, his only one of the final round. But he closed like a champion, smartly two-putting from a slick spot above the hole on the 17th green and getting up-and-down from the greenside bunker on 18 to save par.
Stephen Behr, former Clemson golfer and national-level mid-amateur, played in the same group with Barth and finished tied for third. Behr was impressed with how the youngster played, particularly on the greens.
“I bet he made seven or eight putts that were 10 feet or more on really hard greens. They’re so quick you’ve got to be careful and for him to putt like he did today was amazing.”
Kahlstorf, who began the final round as the co-leader, shot 70 and finished at 7-under 277. He battled back from a bogey-double bogey start and birdied three of four holes at the turn — nearly holing out his approach shot for eagle on No. 10 — to get back in the game.
Behr closed with a 69 and Georgia State golfer Josh Edgar shot 70 to tie for third at 6-under 278. Christian Raynor of Kennesaw matched Barth’s 67 and Matt Hughes of Dalton, who shot 72, tied for fifth at 279.
Barth became the third 17-year-old to win the championship, joining current PGA Tour winner Harris English (2007) and Georgia Golf Hall of Famer Charlie Yates (1931). Colin Bowles of Albany was 16 when he won the title in 2016. Bobby Jones was 14 when he won the first tournament in 1916.
By Stan Awtrey, for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ABOUT THE Georgia Amateur
A field of 144 of the state's best will compete
over 72 holes of stroke play with the field cut to
the low 70 and ties after 36 holes.
Open to male amateur golfers; non-exempt
through one of 11 statewide qualifiers
View Complete Tournament Information