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David Ford birdies the final hole to finish off wire-to-wire win at the Jones Cup
08 Jan 2023
by Kevin Price of AmateurGolf.com

see also: View results for Jones Cup, Ocean Forest Golf Club, David Ford Rankings

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Jones Cup Invitational champion David Ford
Jones Cup Invitational champion David Ford

David Ford won the Jones Cup Invitational in dramatic fashion late Sunday afternoon when he made a birdie putt on the 18th hole at the Ocean Forest Golf Club on Sea Island, Ga., to bring the first tournament of the 2023 season in amateur golf to a rousing conclusion.

Ford’s 18-foot downhill putt at the par 4 finishing hole which plays along the seashore gave him a one-shot victory over Caleb Surratt and also landed the Peachtree Corners, Ga., native his second amateur golf major championship in less than six full months.

Ford, a sophomore at North Carolina, won the Southern Amateur last July at Sea Island Golf Club’s Plantation Course when he tied the tournament scoring record of 20-under-par.

At Ocean Forest, Ford led after all three rounds and ended up at 12-under for the championship after carding a 69 in Sunday’s final round. He shot 67 in round one on Friday and 68 in the second round on Saturday on the demanding par-72 layout designed by Rees Jones which played 7,308 yards this week.

“I’m very thankful for both of them,” Ford said of winning both the long-running Southern Am and now the 19th Jones Cup. “The experience here was just as good as the Southern Am. Both events were amazing.”


David Ford
This week’s Jones Cup field was as deep as any that may be assembled later this season in amateur golf. The tournament attracted 40 of the top 100 players in the Golfweek/Amateur.com rankings including nine of the top 25 players in those same rankings.

Ford came into 2023 ranked No. 21 in those world rankings.

There wasn’t anyone in the field who Ford respected more than Surratt, who was ranked No. 24 coming into this week.

He led the University of Tennessee freshman by two strokes going into the final round, and they battled all the way to the finish for the victory along the Georgia coast.

“It feels really good to beat some of the really, really highly-ranked players,” Ford said, “and Caleb Surratt is one of those who comes to mind. He was at the Southern Am as well, but his ranking has moved up since then. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with. He’s a guy who I think a lot of people who love to say they beat just because of how good he is. He doesn’t go away. He’s one of the best mentally and physically, so he’s pretty awesome.”

Ford and Surratt were in the final threesome at the Southern Amateur last summer. Ford came from behind to win that event while Surratt settled for a fourth-place finish which helped him capture the first-ever Elite Amateur Cup as he finished inside the top 5 in four of the seven tournaments that made up the inaugural series which included the Southern Am.

Surratt was also in the final group last year at the Jones Cup. He actually overtook Ford for the lead on the front nine with four birdies to head to the 10th tee with a two-shot lead at 11-under as Ford made an early birdie and also a bogey at the ninth to remain 9-under at the turn.

But Ford started fast on the back nine with birdies at the par-5 10th and par-4 11th for forge a tie as the gallery started to grow with the tournament appearing to be a two-man showdown for the crown.


Ford's birdie putt on the last delivered him the title
Surratt grabbed the lead again on the par-4 13th hole when he attacked a front pin on a large elevated green and rolled in his birdie putt to go to 12-under. But, he gave that shot right back with a bogey at the par-5 14th when he pulled his second shot into the marsh near the left edge of the green and had to take a drop.

Ford, meantime, hit his second shot over the green and didn’t get his pitch shot to the putting surface, either. But, he managed to get up and down for par to remain 11-under.

It looked like Surratt might again regain the lead at the par-3 15th after Ford nestled a slick birdie putt from above the hole close for par. But Surratt’s birdie putt which was curling toward the hole didn’t fall and he went to his knees, knowing he had hit a good one that just didn’t go.

Both players made par at the par-4 16th and also on the par-3 17th with Ford again getting up and down from a greenside bunker with a wedge to three feet. Surratt also had three feet left for par after his birdie try from below the hole.

Thus, Ford and Surratt came to the 18th tied with a playoff looking like a strong possibility. They both hit their drives about the same distance off the tee, leaving them about 174 yards to a back pin on the elevated last green. Both players were on target with their second shots and talked on their way to the green.

“We talked about what we hit. I said I hit an 8-iron with a lot of adrenaline. He said he hit a 9-iron with a lot of adrenaline,” Ford noted.

Their playing companion - Peter Fountain, who also plays at North Carolina - actually putted first and nearly made his long birdie putt from the front of the green. He marked his ball which had rolled past the hole. It was actually in Ford’s line, so he marked the ball again.

Ford looked over his putt from both sides of the hole before addressing his ball and making one of the biggest putts of his young career. He said Saturday he felt comfortable reading the Bermuda greens, but this particular putt had him puzzled, Ford said after the round.

“It was a really hard putt. I read it first, had so much adrenaline going and was so nervous, I don’t think my brain comprehended what I read,” he said. “I read it right edge the first time, then saw the grain was gonna pull it to the right. Then, I read it left edge, and at the last second pushed my line like half an inch more left. So, it was probably three-quarters of a ball out left or a ball out left, and I hit a good putt.

“It was one of those you wanna be in the moment, it’s the moment you want. I was just lucky it fell. It was a really hard read, maybe the hardest I had all week and the moment didn’t make it any easier, so I had to really focus and lock in.”

Surratt still had a chance to make his birdie putt and force a playoff, but his attempt didn’t fall, making Ford the winner in regulation while he settled for the runner-up spot.

Ford figured Surratt would make his putt, too. “He’ll have many more putts where he’ll make a lot. He’s really good,” the Jones Cup winner said.

Surratt’s 66 on Saturday was the low round of the week. It was matched Sunday by Vanderbilt’s Matthew Riedel who tied for 27th at 3-over.

Wake Forest standout Michael Brennan was one of two players who shot 67 on Sunday. He finished third at 8-under. Fountain ended up fourth at 6-under.

• • • • •

Notables

The Spoils of Victory: In addition to getting his name of the Jones Cup Invitational trophy along with such names as Justin Thomas, D.J. Trahan, and Patrick Reed, tournament champion David Ford also will receive the Layne Williams Medal which went to last year’s champion Palmer Jackson for the first time.

The medal is named in honor of Layne Williams, one of the top rules officials in the country who had helped with this tournament since its beginning back in 2001.

Williams worked for the Georgia State Golf Association and was its Senior Director, leading the Rules and Competitions Department for more than 30 years. He worked several USGA events including the U.S. Open and U.S Amateur and was elected to the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in 2016.

Also a big perk for the winner of the Jones Cup is an invitation to play in the RSM Classic hosted by the Davis Love Foundation on Sea Island’s Seaside and Plantation courses in the fall. Ford will get to play in the PGA Tour event this November. Tournament host Davis Love III, a touring pro from Sea Island, also played collegiate golf at the University of North Carolina where he was an All-American for the Tar Heels.

Talking Dawgs: David Ford’s twin brother Maxwell Ford also played in the Jones Cup this week. Maxwell is a sophomore at the University of Georgia and a member of the UGA men’s golf team.

When he finished his third round on Sunday afternoon, Maxwell caught up with the last pairing to cheer on his brother along with his parents who also were here for the tournament.

David Ford will be in class Monday at North Carolina when spring-semester classes begin iin Chapel Hill while Maxwell will be back in Athens for the first day of second semester at Georgia. But on Monday night, most students inside Bulldog Nation won’t be studying after their first day of class. They’ll be watching as the Georgia football team takes on TCU for college football’s national championship.

Maxwell said he planned to return home Monday night to watch the big game on TV with his girlfriend in Peachtree Corners, Ga. That’s where he watched last year’s national title game when the Bulldogs won their first national crown since 1980 with a victory over SEC rival Alabama.

“I did that last year. It seemed to work out,” he said, admitting to being a tad bit superstitious.

He is anticipating a Georgia win Monday night. “I like our odds,” Maxwell said.

Strong Showing: Vanderbilt, which is ranked second in the GolfStat.com national rankings, saw its contingent play well in the Jones Cup this week.

Four of the team’s six players competing in the tournament finished among the top 25. Gordon Sargent, the reigning NCAA individual champion, was the highest finisher on the Commodores team as he finished tied for 6th at 4-under-par. Sargent received a special invite to play in the Masters earlier this week from Augusta National Golf Club.

Vanderbilt will come back to Georgia in April to compete for the SEC championship at Sea Island. The Commodores have won the last two league titles.

Save the date: It looks like the Jones Cup could very well be played in early January again in 2024. John Wade, the director of golf at Ocean Forest, told AmateurGolf.com that it is highly likely this will happen.

He added that the players are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the tournament in this spot as many of them are still not back in school for second semester and are a few weeks away from starting their spring seasons with their college teams. Both factors make it easier for them to avoid potential schedule conflicts with academics and other tournaments. Wade also got a thumbs up from Bill Jones III, the founder of the Jones Cup, when he mentioned this likelihood during the post-tournament awards ceremony. The tournament was moved from early February to the end of the first week in January this year because Ocean Forest is set to close at the end of the month for course renovations that will take until the fall to complete.

This week’s tournament was played in “Chamber of Commerce” weather with sunny skies all three days and temperatures in the upper-50s and lower-60s with little to no wind.

Results: Jones Cup
1GADavid FordPeachtree Corners, GA120067-68-69=204
2NCCaleb SurrattIndian Trail, NC90071-66-68=205
3VAMichael BrennanLeesburg, VA70072-69-67=208
4NCPeter FountainRaleigh, NC70068-71-71=210
5ILTommy KuhlMorton, IL70072-69-70=211

View full results for Jones Cup

ABOUT THE Jones Cup

The Jones Cup is probably the biggest of the springtime amateur majors in the United States, and the reason is the venue and the strong U.S. and international field. The past champions list is littered with PGA Tour stars, including Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Luke List, Kyle Stanley, Beau Hossler and several others.

This 54-hole individual stroke-play event, inaugurated in 2001, is played at Ocean Forest Golf Club. The Rees Jones design opened in 1995 and has hosted the Georgia State Amateur Championship, the Southern Amateur Championship and the 2001 Walker Cup Match. The Jones Cup brings together many of the finest amateurs from the United States and abroad for a three-day competition.

The Jones Cup was born from a deep commitment to amateur golf by the A.W. Jones family, who founded the Cloister and Sea Island Golf Club in 1928. The Sea Island Golf Club has played host to seven USGA championships. The Jones Cup is yet another extension of the family's strong involvement in amateur golf.

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