Hayes Brown and Bob Royak take Lupton Memorial Invitational titles
28 May 2023
by Sean Melia of AmateurGolf.com

see also: View results for Lupton Memorial Invitational, The Honors Course, Hayes Brown Profile

Hayes Brown (Credit: Ryan Terry)
Hayes Brown (Credit: Ryan Terry)

Hayes Brown is comfortable as the underdog. The South Carolina native reached the 2021 U.S. Mid-Am as the 64 seed. On Sunday at The Honors Course, Brown finished in a flurry to force a playoff with his final-round playing partner, Joe Deraney, who has quite the collection of trophies.

The day started with Chris Wheeler holding a one-shot lead over Sam Jackson. Scoring was tough for everyone on Sunday, Wheeler shot a 79 and Jackson a 78.

Over the course of the round, Wheeler could only muster one birdie on the sixth. However, he tallied three straight bogeys on hole Nos. 7-9 to finish with a 40. He dropped three more shots on the back nine, but he did have a chance to get into the playoff. A birdie putt on 18 just missed.

Jackson might be left with the biggest regret as he packs his bags and heads back to West Columbia, South Carolina. He arrived at the 18th hole with a two-shot lead at two-under par. His approach shot from some heavy rough missed the green and came to rest in some deep fescue. After the 3-minute search, Jackson's ball wasn't found. He finished with a triple-bogey seven.

Jackson wasn't the only player to have one hand on the trophy at The Honors Course. Joe Deraney got off to a good start just like yesterday. He played the first 12 holes in three-under par. His five-under total felt rather safe for the two-time champion.

However, bogeys on holes Nos. 14, 16, and 18, along with a double-bogey on the 16th sent Deraney tumbling back toward the pack of chasers.

Brown, who was one over standing on the 18th tee made a birdie, and considering the trouble the players atop the leaderboard had, that was quite the score. Brown made up six shots on Deraney on the final five holes.

The comeback from Brown started after a double-bogey on the 160-yard par-3 14th hole.

"I flushed an 8-iron over the green into bunkers you don't want to be in," Brown said. "Complete jail."

Walking off the 14th green, Brown had one goal - get into the top five.

"That would be respectable at such a great tournament," Brown said.

However, Brown found something in his swing with that 8-iron. He hit some excellent iron shots coming home, including a pitching wedge on 18 to about three feet for that pivotal birdie.

"I was patient. Double-bogey and triple-bogey are one swing away," Brown said. "The golf course is so hard."

The tee boxes were set back as far as the players had seen all week on Sunday. Add in a touch of wind, and navigating the Pete Dye greens, and disaster was around every corner.

Brown and Deraney finished their rounds without any thought of competing in a playoff against each other considering where Sam Jackson stood.

"I finished and was in the locker room," Brown said. "Then the head pro came in and said 'We've been looking for you. We might need you on the first tee.'"

But a playoff between Brown and Deraney is what was called for to decide the 2023 Lupton champion.

The shock to the system actually made it too hard for Brown to have any nerves.

The first playoff hole, contested on the first hole, saw Deraney make an easy par after narrowly missing a birdie putt. Brown, who missed the green to the left was tasked with a dastardly chip shot that had fescue bothering his backswing. He managed to get the ball onto the green and sank the 15-foot par putt, punctuating it with a small fist pump.

Then the pair headed to the 18th tee. Brown laid back off the tee with an iron.

Deraney's driver found the right rough. Brown used his trusty 2-iron off the tee.

"I was ten yards behind my divot from third round," Brown said. "I knew it was a 9-iron."

He knew indeed. The memorable 180-yard landed about 2 feet away for an easy birdie. Deraney was able to leave himself a birdie putt, but he couldn't get it to fall.

Brown does have a flair for the dramatic. To reach the match play portion of the 2021 Mid-Am he holed out from the fairway for an eagle on the second playoff hole to nab that 64th and final slot. His deep run finished with a semi-final loss to eventful champion Stewart Hagestad.

"I think about that shot all the time," he said. "I literally lived out a dream I imagine as a kid."

That performance at Sankaty in September of 2021, along with a solid showing at the Anderson Cup at Winged Foot just weeks prior set Brown off on a stretch of golf he called the best of his life.

"I was a below-average college player," Brown said. "I was talking to my mom, and I don't think I've won a tournament since junior golf aside from a club championship."

As Brown settled into his job, he felt like his weekend warrior status was underselling his ability. He started competing and starting building on his success.

Brown is feeling confident and enjoying competing, but he understands that keeping perspective is important to avoid burning out again.

"I have to remember I am paying to play this game," he said. "I'm not being paid."

This summer, Brown is planning on playing in the Anderson again at Winged Foot. He'll play a U.S. Amateur Qualifier and then head to Sleepy Hollow for the U.S. Mid-Am.

Bob Royak (Credit: Ryan Terry)
Only one competitor shot even par or better in the senior flight on the final day. Bob Royak (Alpharetta, Ga.) won the battle of attrition with rounds of 68-72-76. His even-par total was three better than runner-up and fellow Georgian Jack Larkin who also shot a 76 on Sunday.

Royak had an inauspicious start to his round; he made bogey on hole Nos. 5,7, 9 and also made a double-bogey on the sixth hole for a front-9 41. In contrast, Larkin shot a 37 and tied his playing partner Royak.

Hanzel, who started the day two shots behind Royak, shot a 79 on the final round and slipped down the leaderboard.

Coming down the stretch, Royak steadied the ship and made a birdie on the 13th hole en route to a closing 35. Larkin couldn't keep pace and shot an eventful 39 with two double bogeys, one bogey, and two birdies. The two birdies came on the closing two holes, helping him leapfrog Dennis Martin and Mike Combs who finished in a tie for third at four-over par. Combs fired an incredible 69, the day's best score by four shots.

"The course played really difficult," said Royak. "I drove it well and kept it away from most of the trouble and I'm really proud of how I kept it together to shoot 35 on the final nine.

"The Lupton is one of the best events we play all year. The conditions are great and the difficulty scale is off the charts. Each and every shot needs your full attention. Randy, Henrik and staff along with the membership put on a terrific golf tournament. I'm looking forward to defending and returning for the 2024 U.S. Senior Amateur."

Royak adds the Lupton Senior victory to a plethora of wins, including Georgia Senior Am, U.S. Senior Am, and the Georgia Mid-Am, which he won as a 59-year-old in 2021.

Ryan Terry contributed to this report.

Results: Lupton Memorial Invitational
1NCHayes BrownCharlotte, NC30074-70-72=216
2MSJoseph DeraneyBelden, MS20071-71-74=216
T3TNMikey FeherSignal Mountain, TN10075-71-71=217
T3SCSam JacksonW. Columbia, SC10070-69-78=217
T3TXChristopher WheelerAddison, TX10066-72-79=217

View full results for Lupton Memorial Invitational

ABOUT THE Lupton Memorial Invitational

This event, named after club founder John T. Lupton, debuted in 2005 on a spectacular Pete Dye golf course near Chatanooga. Mitch Voges won the 1991 U.S. Amateur here, and Tiger Woods won the 1996 NCAA Championship here despite a final round 80. 54 hole individual walking-only event. Stroke play format for the Championship division and Stableford format for the Senior division. Committee will invite 39 mid ams and 48 senior ams.

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