Ford fantastic at Southern Amateur
16 Jul 2022
by Kevin Price of AmateurGolf.com

see also: View results for Southern Amateur, Idle Hour Country Club, David Ford Rankings

David Ford (Kevin Price photo)
David Ford (Kevin Price photo)

When the final group made the turn to the back nine holes Saturday afternoon at the Southern Amateur Championship, the leaderboard was jam-packed with several players battling for the victory in the closing round on the Plantation Course at the Sea Island Golf Club.

Paired together in the last group, David Ford, Mason Williams and Caleb Surratt were all tied for the lead while a few others in front were playing well and challenging for the top spot, too.

It was anyone’s ballgame.

But a few holes into the inward nine, which begins and ends near the seashore along the Georgia coast, Ford began to make the parkland course his own personal playground. The native of Peachtree Corners, Ga. who will be a sophomore for North Carolina in the fall, grabbed the lead and never looked back, cruising to a three-shot victory for what he said is the biggest win of his young career.

Ford, who started the final 18 holes three shots behind the leader Williams, closed the week with a 6-under 65 score to finish at 20-under over the four rounds on the par 71 layout which was hosting this championship for the first time.

With his closing round 65, Ford matched the Southern Amateur scoring record which was set just last year by Maxwell Moldovan when he also won with a 20-under score at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss. Moldoven finished at 9-under this year to finish tied for 21st.

Ford posted four sub-par rounds this week. He opened with a 67 in round one, fired a 9-under 62 in the second round which was the low score for the tournament to bolt into contention, and carded a 66 in the third round which left him three off the lead going into Saturday.

“I won some junior golf tournaments that were the biggest at the time,” Ford said. “But yeah, this is definitely the biggest and the best field in a tournament I’ve won.”

After holding the lead the previous two days, Williams settled for a tie for second at the end after carding an even-par 71 score in Saturday’s finale to wind up at 17-under for the tournament.

Williams was disappointed in the final result, but gracious in defeat.

“I hit it fine pretty much all day. I just couldn’t make any putts. The putts just didn’t fall today, which is the game,” he said. “David played great all day. Sometimes, you just lose. Sometimes, you just get beat.

“Finishing tied for second in one of the best amateur tournaments in the world, it’s a little bittersweet. But, you definitely have to take the positives out of it for sure.”

The Georgia Southern player finished tied with Louisville golfer Jiri Zuska, one of the leaders in the new Elite Amateur Golf Series which will award the eventual cup champion exemptions into USGA championships as well as select PGA Tour tournament and Korn Ferry events. The Southern Am was the fifth tournament in the seven-tourney series which concludes in early August at the Western Amateur.

Zuska, from the Czech Republic, put tougher four solid rounds again this week, closing Saturday with a 66 as he made a push for the title while reaching 17-under as well. He shot 65 in the first round, 67 in round two and 69 in the third round.

“The whole week I was good at not making mistakes,” Zuska said. “I think I made only like three bogeys all week and make four or five birdies every round. That’s what gave me the opportunity to go really low.”

Surratt, who is headed to University of Tennessee in the fall, saw his chances for victory all but go away when he took a triple-bogey seven at the par-4 12th hole. His tee shot there landed in a wooded sandy area left of the fairway. Surratt tried to get the ball back into the short green grass from there but was unsuccessful, and his third shot from an awkward stance along the bank of a lake quickly found the water.

He then took a drop, hit his fifth shot into a green-side bunker, wedged the ball onto the green and made a putt for a seven. Surratt, the leader in the Elite series and a past winner of the Jones Cup Junior at Sea Island, went from tied for the lead to three back. He wound up four strokes off the winning number and finished fourth at 16-under which included his 68 on Saturday.

Ford parred the 12th and walked to the next tee with a one-shot advantage over Williams at that time. From there, the Peachtree Corners golfer took command. He proceeded to make birdie at the par-4 13th and par-5 14th after chipping his ball close from the front edge of the slightly elevated green.

He followed that with a par at No. 15 before hitting his tee ball on the 165-yard, par-13 16th green pin high and right of the flagstick. He rolled in a dead-center putt there for another birdie, and after making parring No. 17, he stuck a wedge shot tight at the finishing hole and punctuated his win with one last birdie for good measure.

“I felt good the whole day and was just trying to keep my head in it. The putts fell, and I ended up as champion,” he said.

Elite Amateur Cup Standings

• • • • •

Tournament Notes

Champ is Ford Tough: You could see David Ford getting emotional when he spoke at the trophy presentation as he briefly detailed a serious back injury that derailed his budding golf career in February 2021, right in the heart of his senior season at his private high school in metro Atlanta.

The former No. 1-ranked player by the American Junior Golf Association had two bulging discs, several inflamed facet joints and two torn labrums.

He experienced excessive pain for four full months and didn’t play golf while seeing several doctors and taking measures such as getting epidural and cortisone shots to ease the pain.

“I was playing the best golf of my life and was out for four months,” Ford said. “Nothing really got better. I saw like 15 doctors. Eventually, I got so upset and starting hitting and just played even though people were telling me not to play.”

Ford said he has been working a lot with an athletic trainer since going to play golf at North Carolina to manage his back troubles.

“I worked a lot with my trainer and owe a lot to him for where my body is,” he added. “Everything still hurts sometimes, and I have to be careful with my body. It just makes me more thankful to be out here and for every round I get to play.”

Ford said the back troubles began likely as the result of playing too much golf.

“I think my body just wore down. I was out at the course for four years straight like 10 to 12 hours a day,” he said. “And, I didn’t do anything else, really. I didn’t want to do anything else, and everything kind of wore down. It was my body telling me that’s too much.”

On Saturday, Ford played with his parents, several friends and also his twin brother Maxwell in his gallery. Maxwell missed the cut this week, but came to Sea Island ranked inside the top 5 in the Elite Amateur Golf Series points standings.

Maxwell Ford, who just completed his freshman season at the University of Georgia, made the semifinals recently at the North and South Amateur played at Pinehurst.

It was a bit of an adventurous final round Saturday for David Ford. He actually had to leave the course on the front nine because of an upset stomach.

“I threw up on hole five or six,” he explained. “Some of it was nerves, but I ate a lot of food really fast. The beef jerky wasn’t that good.”

He continued to eat his way through the round while drinking fluids the whole way, too. On the 17th tee, he pulled out a bag of snacks and offered to share them with his playing partners.

Ford also has an interesting pre-shot routine that includes taking a compass out of his pocket before addressing his ball.

“It’s just like a normal compass, one like hikers and campers use, that I bought at Target,” he noted. “It’s kind of routine now to take it out when I play, even back home. I take it out and see where the wind is before the round. It calms me down. It’s another thing to slow me down. It’s become part of my routine, and I just like having it.”

For Ford, this win came at the home of Davis Love III, once one of the world’s top golfers who played college golf at North Carolina.

Love hosts the annual RSM Classic, which uses Plantation and the Seaside Course which is part of the resort club, each fall on the PGA Tour. Love also has ownership in Southern Soul BBQ, a popular island restaurant for tourists and locals, which is a short drive from the golf course. Ford had dinner there Friday evening.

“I met Davis at my (college) signing,” Ford noted. “He was in town for golf-course designing. He’s pretty cool.”

Spoils of Victory: As the winner, Ford receives a five-year exemption to the Southern Am as long as he remains an amateur player, a silver medal and a Calamity Jane putter.

He told a reporter during his post-round interview the putter would likely become a gift to his father.

GATA: Those four letters are well-known in Statesboro and throughout the state of Georgia.

You could see them stitched onto the leather yardage-book cover sticking out from Mason Williams’ shorts pocket during the final round.

The GATA stands for “Get after their (rear-ends),” a saying made famous by Georgia Southern’s legendary head football coach Erk Russell who served as the bald-headed defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia prior to starting up the football program at Georgia Southern.

Russell, a colorful figure who was known for coming up with such sayings to fire up his charges, won three national titles with the Eagles at the NCAA Division I-AA level. Georgia Southern now competes in the Division I ranks and the Sun Belt Conference.

It’s safe to say his legacy lives on in Statesboro.

Numbers Game: In Saturday’s final round, the average score was 70.21. … There were five eagles posted, 276 birdies and 37 players broke par out of the 71 who played.

Up Next: The next tournament in the Elite Amateur Golf Series will be next week’s Pacific Coast Amateur at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Ore. As for the Southern Am, next summer it will head to The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., on July 19-23.

• • • • •

Elite Amateur Series Recaps
Bryce Lewis holds onto win Sunnehanna Amateur
Record setting title defense for Menante at Northeast Amateur
North & South Amateur: Luke Clanton wins tight final match
Trans-Miss Amateur: William Mouw wins in a three-way sudden death playoff

Results: Southern Amateur
1GADavid FordPeachtree Corners, GA120067-62-70-65=264
T2Czech RepublicJiri ZuskaCzech Republic90065-67-69-66=267
T2WVMason WilliamsBridgeport, WV90065-63-68-71=267
4NCCaleb SurrattIndian Trail, NC70068-68-64-68=268
5TNBryce LewisHendersonville, TN70064-68-68-70=270

View full results for Southern Amateur

ABOUT THE Southern Amateur

The Southern Amateur, which dates back to 1902, is one of two competitions held by the Southern Golf Association (the other is the Southern Junior). This is a 72-hole stroke play championship with a cut made after 36 holes. Entries are open to any male amateur golfer who has a current USGA Handicap Index® not exceeding 3.4 under the USGA Handicap System. Non-exempt players must pre-qualify at one of the qualifying sites held across the southern U.S. in the two months leading up to the championship.

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