P.J. Maybank III is Azalea Invitational champion (Credit: P.J. Maybank)
The Azalea Invitational is rich in history, and now PJ Maybank III
has etched his name in the record books with a dominant performance at The Country Club of Charleston.
There are times when golfers don't have to worry about their playing competitors anymore but instead the focus shifts to history. During the final round of PJ Maybank III's wire-to-wire victory it started to look like the 72-hole scoring record of 265, set by CT Pan in 2011, was going to fall.
And then it did. And then the high school senior from Michigan continued to pour it on.
Maybank III made the turn in his final round at 3-under par with birdies on hole Nos. 5, 8, and 9. That put him at 18-under par for the tournament. Pan's 19-under total was well within reach and then, in the blink of an eye, the Cheboygan native made a birdie on the tenth hole.
"When I made the turn, my mom found out the scoring record," Maybank III said. "But she didn't tell me. Which was probably a good thing."
An eagle on the 15th hole was followed up by a birdie on the 16th.
"After I made eagle on 15 I knew I was close to the record," Maybank III said. "Then I birdied sixteen I figured I had it. But I wasn't totally sure. But I was thinking about it."
When all the scorecards were signed, Maybank III broke Pan's record by three shots with rounds of 66-64-68-64. He lapped the field at The Country Club of Charleston by a staggering 11 shots. He recorded the low score in three of the four rounds and racked up 22 birdies and three eagles. He also made just one bogey on the final 36 holes.
Maybank III knew the par 5s would be key to going low. He could reach them all in two shots. While the Country Club of Charleston isn't very long, the greens keep everyone's attention.
"The greens are wicked," said Maybank III. "They got them super firm and fast and they used some of the toughest pin placements I've ever seen. They make it pretty challenging."
The Golf Association of Michigan 2021 boys' Junior Player of the Year hadn't shown recent signs that this type of golf was on the horizon. He finished 21st in the Sage Valley Junior last week and last month he was 18th in the AJGA Simplify Boys Championship at Charlton Woods. In those two events, he played six rounds and recorded scores ranging from 70-78.
However, Maybank III knew he was close.
"I told my coach and my dad I was hitting the ball really well," he said. "At Sage Valley I putted so badly. It was really frustrating."
So frustrating in fact that Maybank III called his rep at Callaway and asked for a new putter. His Odyssey blade wasn't doing its job so it was benched for a Toulon Atlanta mallet-style putter. He used it for the first time during Wednesday's practice round, which also happened to be the first time he had ever played The Country Club of Charleston.
"I had one of the best putting weeks I've ever had," Maybank III said.
How did Maybank III stay focused while holding a four-shot lead and playing some of the best golf of his life?
"Calahan (Keever) and Hampton (Roberts) are two great players. And I figured one of them would make a charge," Maybank III said. "And so I knew I still had to play good today. I just tried to stick to my game plan and play the golf course."
Maybank III isn't a stranger to heaters like this one. He credits his incredibly low rounds with his putter because he's always a solid ball striker. As a sophomore representing Cheboygan High School, he shot 135 for 36 holes and broke the division 3 state scoring record, winning the event by 10 shots.
Maybank III now spends the majority of the winter in Florida working on his game and competing while attending online school through Cheboygan High School.
In many years, Hampton Roberts'
total of 273 would be good enough to win the Azalea. Roberts (Cary, N.C), who will head to UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall, shot rounds of 72-66-67-68 to finish as runner-up. He made three birdies in the final six holes to pass Calahan Keever
, who made a double bogey on the 18th to slip to third place.
During the week, Keever, a freshman at Anderson University, was riding shotgun to Maybank's ridiculous pace. His second-round 64 put him in second place, and he stayed in that position all the way to the end. He finished at 10-under par and in solo third place.
Maybank III's next stop is the Terra Cotta. He'll also represent the USA in the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup this summer. In the fall, he'll play for the Oklahoma Sooners.
ABOUT THE Azalea Invitational
72-hole stroke play championship with a 54-hole cut
Seth Raynor design. Good mix of college
and mid amateurs. 7 spots available in a
Impressive list of past champions at this
traditional event. Reigning USGA champs often use
this tournament as a tune-up for the Masters.
View Complete Tournament Information