Michael Buttacavoli walked into an impromptu surprise party June 16 behind the 18th green at the Golden Bear Club at Keene’s Pointe. He quickly found out he was the guest of honor, and that there was more than one surprise.
Minutes earlier, Buttacavoli tapped in for a routine par and his third consecutive 2-under 70, which he learned while walking to the scoring tent was good enough for a one-shot victory in the 33rd Southern Junior Championship.
“This feels pretty good,” said Buttacavoli, a senior-to-be at Ransom Everglades School in Miami who finished at 6-under 210.
Then someone told him what he’d been playing for the last three days: an exemption into the 99th Southern Amateur next month at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“I had no idea,” Buttacavoli said. “That’s pretty awesome. I just hope it’s not the same week as the U.S. Junior.” (The Southern Amateur ends July 16; the U.S. Junior begins July 18.)
Schedule conflicts were the last thing on Buttacavoli’s mind as he walked away from the green on the par-3 16th hole, where he had just made bogey to drop to 5 under for the tournament.
He then caught word that Portugal’s Nino Henriques was 7 under through 16.
“I figured I just had to make two birdies and see what happens,” said Buttacavoli, who had 18 birdies in the 54-hole event.
Buttacavoli, 17, birdied the par-5 17th, then narrowly missed a 25-footer for birdie on the par-4 18th, which he didn’t need thanks to breakdowns from Henriques and Zach Sucher. Henriques made triple bogey on 17, and Sucher made double bogey on 18.
“I thought I had it won,” said Henriques, 18, a student at the David Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Fla., who tied for second with fellow Leadbetter classmate Tommy Chung Mou, 14, of Taiwan.