Bartley Forrester wins Monroe Invitational (credit: Monroe Invitational)
Saturday was lined up as a coronation for Bartley Forrester
at the Monroe Invitational. However, it turned into a back nine duel between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket and an Ohio State Buckeye, Jackson Chandler
. Forrester needed a miraculous eagle on the 17th hole to enjoy a stress-free walk up 18.
“That shot (on 17) won the tournament for me essentially,” said Forrester. “I kind of let the lead slip away on the back nine, so I knew I needed to make something happen on the final two holes. I’ve hit that drive really well all week and I just stood up and crushed one down the middle."
Jackson felt the weight of Forrester's eagle.
“I hit my approach on 17 to about 12 feet and then he flew his approach into the hole," Chandler said. "It was cool to see, but kind of bittersweet.”
At the start of play, Forrester held a six-shot lead over Chandler and coming off a 64 in the third round, it didn't seem like anyone was going to catch him. Golf has a way of exacting revenge though, even for the best amateurs in the country.
After making eight birdies on the front nine in his first three rounds, the well dried up in the final round. Instead, Forrester bogeyed hole Nos. 2 and 6, and he didn't record a birdie until the the 12th hole.
Chandler didn't come out guns blazing either. He made a bogey on the fifth hole, but birdies on hole Nos. 7 and 9 cut Forrester's lead from six shots to three.
inserted himself in the festivities, too, with a 33 on the front that pulled him to 7-under par and tied with Chandler. He couldn't quite continue the momentum, shooting 35 on the back nine.
"I had birdies on seven and nine,” Wells said, “but I knew I would have to do something special on the back to have a chance. I tried not to think about that too much and just make it into a regular Saturday morning round of golf.”
Even as the 50th-ranked amateur in the Golfweek/AGC rankings, closing out a tournament can be tough. Forrester dropped shots on holes Nos. 13, 14 and 16. Birdies on Nos. 12 and 15 kept him out front, but the lead shrank to one shot after the 16th hole when Chandler made a birdie on the par-3 16th. A stunning two-shot swing meant anything could happen on the final two holes.
Something did indeed happen. Forrester, with a wedge in his hand, won the tournament with a breathtaking shot.
“I’d say my wedge game has probably been the strength of my game. So I had a good number in. I was trying to skip it, probably land it seven, eight feet short and bounce it up there, but it ended up just flying right in the cup," Forrester said. "I don’t know if I’ve flown a wedge in like that before, so it was pretty cool.”
In the blink of an eye, a one-shot lead jumped to three shots when Chandler's birdie putt went begging and he tapped in for par.
Forrester parred the 72nd hole for a final-round score of 71, enough for an 11-under par total and a three-shot victory. Chandler fought admirably, shooting a 68. Luke Wells also shot a 68 to finish in third place, four clear of Yaroslav Merkulov
in fourth place.
Bartley's golf has been trending in the right direction. He won the Calusa Cup
in April, and took third in The Dogwood
this June before qualifying for the US Amateur
"This past semester in college was definitely the best I've played. I'm glad I'll able to continue that into the summer", Forrester said following his second round at the Monroe. "Hopefully I can keep that going as long as I can. The game feels really good."
Forrester became the second Georgia Tech golfer in the last three years to win the Monroe Invitational, joining Andy Ogletree, who won the title in 2019.
“Oh it’s awesome,” Forrester said. “I know my old teammate Andy Ogletree won here a few years ago and a lot of other big names have won here, so it’s a great golf course and I’m really excited to have my name added to the list of winners here.”