Logan Blondell wins 2022 Gasparilla (Photo: Gasparilla)
won the 67th Gasparilla Invitational in record-setting fashion with a final score of ten-under par, breaking Mike Finster’s record low of eight-under from 2019. Blondell was in control throughout the three days, sleeping on the lead both Thursday and Friday evening on his way to a five-shot victory.
Blondell is no stranger to Palma Ceia Country. He grew up playing it in junior events and the tight tee shots and fast greens remind him of his home course Cleveland Heights Golf Course in Lakeland, Fla.
"There were dozens of times this week when I referenced shots I have played at Cleveland Heights," Blondell said. "I'd remind myself I've hit this shot since I was 12."
Blondell admitted he hasn't played much competitive golf recently. A former professional, he returned to the amateur ranks in 2018. Work and settling into a new life didn't leave him the time he needed to play enough golf in order to compete.
Most Gasparilla players are invited to play the event, however, a few spots are left open for Monday qualifiers. Blondell showed up on Monday hoping for a spot; he earned one with his worst round of the week. A 73 in cold conditions was the opposite of the bright sunny skies that welcomed players from Thursday to Saturday. It was the only round in the 70s for Blondell all week.
Over the course of the three rounds, Blondell made just three bogeys. His thirteen birdies were third-best in the field. Marc Dull
made 15 and Jonathan Bale
made 14. However, they also couldn’t avoid the big numbers. As Bale made two double bogeys and Dull made a triple bogey. Those big numbers are always lurking at Palma Ceia CC due to the winds, tight fairways, and a plethora of out of bounds.
"I love this kind of golf," Blondell said. "And I was playing well, so it was the perfect combination."
The final result is not representative of how many players made runs at Blondell in the final round. A slew of players flashed up the leaderboard on Saturday, but it seemed the energy it took to try and catch Blondell wore out each challenger before they could summit the mountain. Palma Ceia’s tough greens and final round set-up means risk-taking can lead to big numbers.
was the first to fire a shot across Blondell’s bow. Teeing off thirty minutes before Blondell, Hernandez tallied four straight birdies on holes 3-6, jumping him to seven-under par. Unfortunately, Hernandez’s birdies dried up, and he played the last ten holes in six over.
Another player that made a run at the lead was Dull. He started his day two shots behind Blondell at five-under par. Unlike Hernandez, he was able to keep his eye on Blondell throughout the round, as he and Keith Guest
were paired with the leader. Dull birdied the first two holes to pull even with Blondell, but Blondell fired back with a birdie on the fourth hole to regain the lead. Dull bogeyed the sixth and seventh holes, and couldn’t find another birdie until the eighteenth hole when the fate of the tournament was all but sealed. Dull ended up in a tie for second place at five-under with Bobby Leopold
, Bale, and Joe Deraney
Deraney, pushed his score to six-under-par after a birdie on the eleventh hole, but he stalled out with six straight pars and a bogey on 18. Likewise, Bale birdied the twelfth hole to reach six-under par. That was as close as he could get to Blondell.
Of the second-place finishers, Bale had the most steady day. He never reached six under but played good golf all week carding scores of 70-66-69.
The last player to reach six under and threaten Blondell was Nick Maccario
, who closed the second round with three birdies to leap into contention. He battled his way to six-under-par, but a bogey on ten and a double bogey on eleven dropped him off the pace.
A glance at Blondell's third-round scorecard would make anyone think it was rather stress-free. However, Blondell had a few moments where things turned a little hairy.
As Blondell's group made the turn it was clear that were behind on time. After playing the eleventh hole, the group was put on the clock.
This made the twelfth hole a bit more stressful for Blondell. A bad tee shot left him in a precarious position. His approach didn't help his cause, and his third shot trundled over the edge of the Donald Ross green, just as he designed it. A deft chip to six inches helped Blondell escape with a bogey, his first of the day. A 30-foot birdie putt on 12, with a fist pump included, calmed his nerves.
However, the time lords were still watching Blondell's group. They received a warning after the fifteenth hole, and another shaky tee shot left Blondell under a tree with a five iron in hand. His ball carried a greenside bunker and rolled to ten feet. One putt later and Blondell was ready to set sail for the clubhouse.
Throughout the day, as is his custom, Blondell didn't look at a leaderboard.
"My goal is to play the best golf I can. However, it shakes out is how it shakes out."
He said a few congratulations from spectators on the 18th fairway gave him a sense that he was probably in very safe shape.
The birdie that Blondell rolled home from about fifteen feet was cheered by throngs of spectators. The Gasparilla is known for its supportive membership, and Blondell recognized their support and what it means to him and the other competitors.
"You don't get that feeling very often. It was pretty cool."
As he reflected on the week, Blondell couldn't resist mentioning some of the people he played with. His opening round partner Scott Saterbo was cheering on Logan's birdies, fist-pumping, and exuding positive energy.
"It was a lot of fun."
His second-round partner Blanton Farmer
was also his partner during Monday's qualifying; he was another player Blondell enjoyed playing with and commented on his talent and easy-going nature. And finally, his third-round partner Marc Dull is an old friend and high school opponent.
The mid-amateurs kept their eyes open for Logan Blondell. He's going to be around a little bit more, which means we might find his name at the top of leaderboards in the coming years. He's the Gasparilla champ and a record holder.
In the senior division, 65 year old Jack Hall
was the only senior who finished under par. He rode a wave of four birdies on holes 3, 5, 7, and 8 to build enough of a buffer that a closing 36 earned him a three-shot win over Rusty Strawn
. Mike Finster
finished in third place at two-over par, four shots behind Hall.