Ian Davis (Courtesy of Oklahoma Golf Association)
of Oklahoma City capped a triumphant return to the amateur golf ranks with a 1-up victory over Jacob Prentice
of Edmond in the final match of the Oklahoma Golf Association State Amateur Championship on a searing Wednesday afternoon at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club.
Davis was a youngster brimming with promise and big dreams when he won the OGA Junior Championship in 2010 with a week of brilliant play at Kickingbird Golf Course in Edmond. He went on to a successful collegiate career at Oklahoma State, then turned professional in 2014. In his first event, he won the Colorado Open by five shots.
For the next six years, Davis traveled the world, enjoying the adventure but learning just how difficult the road to the PGA Tour can be. He and former OU and current Korn Ferry Tour golfer Michael Gellerman took off to Canada one year in an old beater car with a few dollars between them to play the Mackenzie Tour. Gellerman served as his caddie Wednesday, as he is currently nursing a rib injury.
By 2020, Davis conceded that it was time to get a full-time job outside of golf and applied for his amateur status back. He received it in November of 2021, but this is the first event he has entered.
“Well, you know I have to work now,” he said with a chuckle after holding on to edge Prentice in the final. Now 30, his next goal is to qualify for and hopefully win the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship. The qualifier is in August at Dornick Hills in Ardmore.
Davis, who had not played in an event of any stature since the 2020 Oklahoma Open, was not the only one who may have been a bit rusty coming in. Prentice, 25, has spent most of the past three years recovering fully from a knee injury suffered in a motorcycle accident in 2020. And his semifinal opponent, Austin Schmidt of Tulsa, has only recently fallen in love with golf again after spending his early 20s racing motocross.
Coming off being a professional, Davis had to ignore all those who were telling him that he was the odds-on favorite to win this event, one he never reached the final while competing throughout college.
His final three matches were all wars. He had to come from two holes behind with two holes to play Tuesday afternoon to edge Mike Hearn of Yukon in 20 holes. Then he needed six birdies Wednesday morning in the semifinals to subdue Schmidt 2 and 1.
Schmidt didn’t play collegiate golf after high school at Bishop Kelley, preferring dirt bikes to digging it out of the dirt. But he is making up for lost time and has quickly shown he is one of the state’s top players, making it to a playoff last week in the OGA Mid-Amateur after a second-round 66 and then reaching the semifinals here.
“I regret all the time I took off but I’m loving it now,” Schmidt said. “It was a really good match, I had a couple of putts that almost went in that could have got me over the hump. But Ian played great.”
Prentice, who won the Class 6A state championship playing at Edmond Memorial in 2015 and played collegiately at Southern Nazarene, worked for two years as a club fitter at Club Champion in Oklahoma City and now sells medical supplies. He talks fast, plays very fast and may also drive his cart too fast (he and his caddie took a spill through a bunker on hole eight in the final round). They were discussing a shot and didn’t see it as they crested a hill.
His semifinal 3 and 2 victory over Kyle Hudelson of Oklahoma City took just two hours and nine minutes, as the two raced around matching great shots. Prentice nearly holed out from 63 yards right and below the green on that same eighth hole, leaving himself a tap-in birdie that put him 2 up. He birdied the 10th hole and won the par-3 11th with a par to go 4 up, then made a series of par saves down the stretch.
“He played really well,” Hudelson said. “I’ve never seen a guy make that many 8-foot par saves. He didn’t miss any.”
Indeed, Prentice made no bogeys in the morning match, but it wasn’t the case in the final. His first bogey of the day came on the ninth hole and put him one down and his second came on the par-3 11th, when he three-putted to fall two down.
He won the short par-4 12th when Davis lost his tee shot in a creek and conceded a short birdie putt to Prentice. His best opportunity to draw even came on the par-5 16th, where he left himself just 5 feet for eagle, but the putt would not fall. Both players made pars on 17 and 18.
“I gave myself better looks this afternoon, but the putter just went a little cold on me,” Prentice said. “When you look back on it, that eagle putt on 16, should have made that and the 4-footer I missed on 11. Ian beat me 1 up, he played great all week. But if I had anything to look back on with regret it would be those two putts. Other than that I have no regrets. Ian played his butt off and didn’t give me anything.”
Prentice and his wife Samantha have a 7-month old child which has limited his golf and also it took him two years to recover from a knee injury he suffered riding a motorcycle in 2020. So like Davis this was his first major amateur event in years. Going forward both could be a factor for years to come in this and other mid-amateur events.
This was Davis first event since playing in the 2020 Oklahoma Open.
“This was fun, I had a great time,” Davis said. “The pro career was great. I got to travel the world and see the world. Been to almost every country in South America and all across Canada. But yes, those guys are good. It’s tough to make a living.”
“I thought if I played well I could win. I had several friends telling me I was the odds-on favorite and I tried to ignore all that and just go play.”
by Chris Swafford, Oklahoma Golf