Cody Carroll (right) wins Florida Azalea (Photo: Palatka CC)
shot three straight rounds in the 60s to win the Florida Azalea Amateur on Sunday. The final round was lined up for some serious drama, as Carroll and Sean Butscher
were tied for the lead, and six players were within four shots of their 134 total.
Butscher couldn't back up his impressive 64 in the second round and fell off the pace with a final round 74, and Carroll was solid all day to keep his opponents at arm's length.
It wasn't Carroll's first time arriving at the home stretch of the Florida Azalea with the lead. In 2018, as a high school senior, Carroll was in the exact same position; he held a three shot lead with five holes remaining, but four years ago, his lead disappeared.
"I was a nervous wreck. I was a high schooler and had never played an amateur event. I ended up watching someone else get handed the trophy," Carroll said.
The Florida Azalea sends its leader off the back nine for the final round, as holes 7, 8, and 9 add a bit more drama than the actual closing holes at Palatka CC.
"There's out of bounds left and water right on every hole," Carroll said. "The course is only about six thousand yards, but you're constantly on the defensive. The greens are shaped like turtle shells, and it's easy to get out of position."
Carroll shot a steady one-under-par 69 in the third round on a tough day at Palatka CC. Only six players broke par on the final day, and 68 was the best score, so Carroll was able to push his lead to a comfortable three shots.
It was a pretty boring round according to Carroll. He birdied his fourth, tenth, and thirteenth holes. When he made a 20-foot downhill putt on the Palatka's first hole, a putt some players were hitting off the green, Carroll felt buoyed and primed for the final eight holes.
While Carroll could keep an eye on the three players in his final round foursome, he knew Troy Vannucci
, in the group ahead, was a dangerous player. Without any live scoring, Carroll tried to ask his brother, Chase, who had finished his round at Palatka CC, if he knew where he stood on the leaderboard. Chase didn't have any information. Vannucci ended up finishing in second place. Kyle De Beer
and James Newton finished in a tie for third place.
Carroll was satisfied with how he handled the final few holes with a lead. He was comfortable playing from the front, and didn't allow the demons from 2018 to creep in a impact his golf this time as he navigated the final three holes.
"My mental game is so much better," Carroll said.
He hit a 3-iron off the seventh hole, but on the eighth and ninth, Carroll decided to hit his driver. Given the tight landing area, he was inviting trouble. He knew the driver was the right choice.
"I drove it great all week. I didn't need to change up what I had been doing well in order to win," Carroll said.
Carroll is a senior at North Florida. His best collegiate finish was second place in the 2019 Shoal Creek Invitational. He did win the 2020 Jacksonville Amateur and the Florida high school state championship. Carroll was also the ASUN Conference Freshman of the Year in 2019.
ABOUT THE Florida Azalea
The Florida Azalea was started in 1958 as a two-man
team tourney. The field has, over the years,
boasted players who have gone on to greatness at
the professional level. Tommy Aaron, who teamed
with Dan Sykes for the 1960 Florida Azalea team
title, went on to win the 1973 Masters. And Bob
Murphy, winner of back-to-back Florida Azalea titles
while playing for the University of Florida golf team
in 1965-66, was an 11-time winner on the PGA
The 220-man Azalea field competes in one of six
flights. The first flight is Championship, with a cut
after 36-holes. The next five flights are Net.
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