Southern Amateur champion Nicholas Gabrelcik (SGA photo)
It wasn't easy, but after rain delays caused fits and starts for the tournament committee and players, the 117th Southern Amateur is in the books. Nicholas Gabrelcik of Trinity, Florida fired a final round 64 at the difficult Honors Course, moving from 23rd place into the winner's circle.
Anyone that has played the Honors Course knows how good that score is.
"The whole week I was hitting the ball good but the first two days I just couldn't put it all together with the putting and chipping." Nicholas Gabrelcik said. "It all felt like it was coming together sooner than later. I didn't wake up this morning thinking I was going to play how I did but it was nice it all came together now.
"I was putting the ball in play and giving myself opportunities with my iron shots and the putter was definitely the key today," Gabrelcik added.
It was the first time since 1994 the tournament was shortened from 72 to 54 holes, mainly due to an 8-hour delay during Wednesday's first round, when heavy rain and lightning plagued the Chattanooga area.
By the time Thursday rolled around, players who didn't finish (or even start) their first round had to finish in the morning, and the scheduled second wave couldn't even play any holes.
"It was a hectic week with all the weather delays," Gabrelcik said.
Gabrelcik continued "but we have all been in weather delays. All the volunteers and how everybody handled the whole situation was fantastic. They did everything they could to make an amazing week and it was."
That put first-round leader Matthew Kress of Saratoga, California, in an interesting position.
After firing a 7-under 65 in the first round -- teeing off early and avoiding the rain delay -- he had to sit on his lead for more than a full day before hitting a shot again.
Gabrelcik, who plays for the University of North Florida, fired seven birdies and an eagle today to claim the 117th Southern Amateur Championship title with a 54-hole total of 11-under 205. Gabrelcik finished one shot ahead of his competition.
"I just wanted to go out and enjoy the course as much as possible and whether we moved up or down the leaderboard I just wanted to make sure to have fun," Gabrelcik said.
Dylan Menante of Carlsbad, California, and the University of North Carolina shot a final round 69 and finished second at 10-under 206.
Peter Fountain of Raleigh, North Carolina (final round 69), and 36-hole leader Jeffrey Guan of Australia (final round 72) tied for third with an overall 9-under 207 score. After a scorecard playoff, Fountain claimed the bronze medal.
First-round leader Kress, perhaps iced by the long break, had trouble finding his early magic and finished T7 after his final two rounds of 72-73.
Gabrelcik has won before, but this one might be the one he is most proud of.
"It means a lot," Gabrelcik said about winning the Southern Amateur. "It is up there in the top three if not first in wins I have had. Just in who has won the event it shows that if you win this you can compete with some of the best and I am preparing the right way."
ELITE AMATEUR CUP
Among the leaders of the Elite Amateur Cup points race
, Nicholas Dunlap finished a disappointing T59 after winning two and finishing in the top 10 in all his first four events. Next in the points standings, Jackson Van Paris didn't make up much ground, with a 55th-place finish.
WHAT THE CHAMPION RECEIVES
The winner of the Southern Amateur Championship receives a silver medal, his name engraved on the George Adair Trophy, and an exemption into the 2024-2028 Southern Amateur Championships.
FINAL ROUND NOTES:
Field average score: 72.39
Four eagles and 216 birdies
25 players broke par
Easiest Hole: #17, Par 5 (average 4.67)
Hardest Hole: #8, Par 3 (average 3.56)
The Southern Golf Association contributed to this story
ABOUT THE Southern Amateur
The Southern Amateur, which dates back to 1902, is
one of two competitions held by the Southern Golf
Association (the other is the Southern Junior). This
is a 72-hole stroke play championship with a cut
made after 36 holes. Entries are open to any male
amateur golfer who has a current USGA Handicap
Index® not exceeding 3.4 under the USGA Handicap
System. Non-exempt players must pre-qualify at
one of the qualifying sites held across the southern
U.S. in the two months leading up to the
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