Every event unfolds in its own unique way. The New Year's Invitational saw C.J. Easley
, a senior at Ole Miss, grab the lead after 36 holes with two very strong rounds. A cadre of talented golfers were lined up to take a run at Easley in the third round of the rain shortened event. However, Easley, with a closing 72, did enough to hold off five runner-up finishers and win by two shots.
Easley, who transferred from Auburn to Ole Miss, opened the New Year's Invitational with an impressive 67 that included four birdies and an eagle. Easley took advantage of the par-5 closing hole with two eagles during the tournament.
kept pace with Easley over the first two days. He entered the third round two shots behind Easley a 6-under par. Easley's former Auburn teammate, Max Johnson
, along with mid-am Troy Vannucci
were also primed to chase down Easley; both players were 5-under and three behind the leader before play started in round three.
Easley opened the third round with birdies on hole Nos. 2 and 5. The chasing trio couldn't muster up much competition. Each of them shot 37 on the front nine. However, Easley's somewhat tidy scorecard did not match the pictures that might have accompanied the numbers.
“I never got comfortable off the tee this week, not with driver, 3-wood or irons,” Easley told the Tampa Bay Times. “I did keep it in play, but I also put myself in some challenging situations.”
There were some late chargers who posted scores that Cooper, Vannucci, and Johnson would have loved to shoot.
, the reigning Ohio state amateur champ who plays at University of Cincinnati, shot a bogey-free 69. The steady round didn't get rolling until back-to-back birdies on holes Nos. 12 and 13. One final birdie on 15 helped Gingerich lock-up a runner-up finish.
Another Ohioan, Bryce Reed
from Kent State shot a closing round 67, which included seven birdies. It was the best round of the day. It launched him up the leaderboard and into second place at 6-under par.
Sitting at 9-under par with nine holes remaining, Easley was able to steer the ship home on the back nine. He dropped a shot on the par-4 12th, but six straight pars, some from under trees and deep bunkers, kept the five runner-up finishers at bay.
“I just stayed in the moment and stuck to my routine,” Easley said. “I did a good job of that (Sunday). I think this week will really help me be a better player in the future. I think I definitely got better this week.”
In the mid-am division, Troy Vannucci shot rounds of 69-70-71 to beat David Lang
and Marc Dull
by three shots each.
ABOUT THE New Year's Invitational
Historic invitational golf tournament that
on the Lakewood golf course in 1927. This
amateur invitational tournament -- which
top Florida amateurs and a strong group of out-of-
state players as well --
unbroken, each year although the club
later changed to St. Petersburg Country
View Complete Tournament Information