Hunter Logan (Back of the Range photo)
by Kevin Price, AmateurGolf.com
Hunter Logan finished off what he called his biggest-ever victory Saturday afternoon as he won the prestigious Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club in suburban Atlanta.
Logan, a senior at Mississippi State who also led after the previous two rounds, closed with a 5-under-par 67 to end the 72-hole tournament at 20-under for a five-shot win.
“I haven’t won a lot since I’ve gotten to college,” he said. “This is my second win. The other one was just a small tournament in my hometown. So this is by far my biggest win.”
Logan, a native of Steens, Miss., which is less than 30 minutes from the Mississippi State campus in Starkville, got more than a big trophy for winning this long-running championship which for several years now has opened the summer schedule in amateur golf.
For the first time, this year’s Dogwood champion receives exemptions into two PGA Tour of Australasia tournaments. This perk includes a stipend to compete in Australia and also complimentary airfare for two.
Logan is the second straight player from an SEC school to claim the Dogwood crown. Carson Bacha who plays at Auburn won the tournament last year. Barcha also won by five shots last summer while shooting 22-under. Barcha tied for 17th this go-round at 8-under for the championship.
Logan, who plans to play as a fifth-year senior next year at Mississippi State, came to Georgia after playing well down the stretch of the college season with the Bulldogs. He finished seventh at the team’s NCAA regional tournament, 13th at the SEC tournament and also had two top-3 finishes in two regular-season tournaments in the spring including a runner-up showing at the Schenkel Invitational hosted by Georgia Southern in Statesboro.
He made an equipment change midseason and also changed his mindset, both of which led to better scoring.
“I was struggling early in the spring, and I changed to my roommates’ irons. Ever since then, I’ve been playing well,” Logan noted. “I was just kind of hanging around there, just not really getting the job done. I also handled things better. When I made a mishap, I let it affect me for too many holes. Today, I didn’t make a bogey, but even when I did put myself in a bad spot, I told myself bogey will be fine here.”
Logan didn’t make any bogeys in Thursday’s second round either when he blistered the short and hilly course as he fired a 61 that included 11 birdies. It was the second-lowest round in the history of the tournament.
He jumped to the top of the leaderboard at 14-under and held a three-shot advantage after two rounds. On Friday, he carded a 71 to move to 15-under going into the final round which started with him still holding that same three-shot cushion.
His final margin of victory might make it appear that Logan strolled through the final 18 without a challenge, but that was far from the case. He got a stern fight from co-runner-up Maxwell Ford for most of the afternoon and actually led by only two strokes with three holes to go.
With no scoreboards on the sprawling course, Logan didn’t know where he stood on the leaderboard throughout the day, though his caddy and teammate Harrison Davis did by tracking the live scoring on his cell phone.
“The only time I knew anything during the round was after my tee shot on 18. I asked my caddy if I needed to do anything here, and he said I did not, that I was in a good spot. That’s all I ever knew,” explained Logan who tied for 18th last year in his first Dogwood appearance while shooting 9-under for the tourney.
The back nine was a two-man battle, though, between Logan and Ford who started fast with birdies on his first four holes as he played in the twosome just ahead of the final pairing. The University of Georgia sophomore started the round four shots back of Logan and finally caught him with a birdie on the 10th hole which was his sixth birdie of the day.
Maxwell Ford went down swinging
Back of the Range
Logan birdied the par-3 13th to regain the lead, but Ford tied him again with a birdie at the par-4 14th. Logan followed with a birdie on 14 as well to go back in front and he would actually keep the lead the rest of the round.
At the uphill par-4 15th, Ford missed a short birdie chance before Logan came through moments later and drained a birdie putt from 20 feet for a two-shot lead.
Ford was undone by a triple-bogey at the par-5 final hole, and it was all but over at that point.
Ford ended up signing for a 68 to finish at 15-under and tie for second overall with Ohio State senior Neal Shipley who played in the final pairing with Logan. Shipley shot 69 over the closing 18.
Kentucky standout Alex Goff was one of two players to shoot the low round of the day as he carded a 66 to end up tied for fourth at 13-under.
Florida State golfer Gray Albright also shot 66 on Saturday and wound up tied for 13th at 9-under.
A NEW PARTNERSHIP
In addition to competing for the coveted trophy and world rankings points this week Dogwood Invitational players have something else on the line. In March, the tournament announced a partnership with the PGA Tour Australasia.
The 2023 Dogwood Invitational Champion will receive 2 PGA Tour of Australia Invites, complimentary airfare for two (2) and a stipend to compete in Australia. Additionally, the leading five (5) players up to the 10th position of the 2023 Dogwood Invitational will be exempt through to the 2024 PGA Tour Australia Q School Final Stage.
Carr's Last One
The Dogwood Invitational was the final amateur tournament for Ben Carr, who finished tied for 10th at 10-under-par for the championship after carding an even-par 72 in Saturday’s final round. Carr, last year’s runner-up in the U.S. Amateur, will be in the field next week at the U.S. Open at the Los Angeles Country Club based on that second-place finish last summer in the Amateur championship.
Carr, who also played in the Masters in April, will then embark on a professional career starting this summer on PGA Tour Canada. A native of Columbus, Ga., who enjoyed a stellar collegiate career at Georgia Southern, Carr was looking to tune up for his Open appearance this week at Druid Hills, but he also liked the thought of ending his amateur career in his home state.
“I really like this course and this tournament, so I was excited to come play and finish up here,” Carr said after signing his scorecard on Saturday. “I wanted to play better today, so that was frustrating, but it was really cool being up here for my last one for sure.”
Hunter Logan decided he would dress just like his Mississippi State team did in final rounds this season. for the finish at Druid Hills Golf Club. His wardrobe on Saturday included black shorts, a maroon shirt with the Mississippi logo and also a black hat with the word Mike written across the bill of the cap in large white letters.
"Mike" would be former Mississippi State football coach Mike Leech who passed away suddenly last December. The Bulldogs wore those hats to honor the popular coach during the season.
“It was obviously sad about his passing,” Logan said. “His wife gave us the chance to put it on a hat. We wore the maroon and black with the black hat for the final round and we won, so we kept it going. It meant a lot to us.”
Logan also revealed he had on a black belt which wasn’t showing because he had his shirt untucked. He plays with it untucked as well.
“That’s the way I grew up playing,” he said.
This year’s Dogwood tournament produced a new low mid-amateur as Trey Rule was recognized for that honor during Saturday’s awards ceremony. Rule, the 2014 tourney champion, shot 9-under over the four rounds to end up tied for 13th on the final leaderboard.
The last two years, Canadian Garrett Rank finished as the low mid-amateur. Rank, one of the top-ranked amateurs out there, actually finished second overall in the 2021 championship.
Outside the Ropes
Georgia Southern golfer Parker Claxton who played among the leaders in the final two rounds had several family members in his gallery during the third- and fourth-rounds. One of those was his grandfather Paul Parker who lives in Claxton, a small town in South Georgia. Parker owns the Claxton Bakery which makes the world-famous Claxton Fruitcakes which are a popular treat during the Christmas season especially.
Parker is also an avid golfer and quite the character who talks with the Southern drawl one might expect, too. As he hitched a ride around the course with yours truly, he threw out many a good one-liners as he puffed on a cigar as well.
“Ole Wally used to say those 2s and 3s on the scorecard don’t add up as fast as those 5s and 6s,” Parker said as he reminisced about playing golf with his longtime buddy Wally Adams.
“He also used to say just keep hitting that ball down there around that flag. They usually always keep that pin at the bottom of that thing.”
Parker also described a difficult putt one of the players had at the par-3 17th in a way this writer hadn’t ever heard.
“That putt that boy there has, now that ain’t no letter from home, either,” he said.