By Jay A. Coffin
The second version of the Isleworth/UCF Collegiate Invitational turned into a 54-hole playoff to decide the outright individual champion from a year ago. At last year’s inaugural event at Isleworth Country Club, Oklahoma State’s Pablo Martin and Georgia’s Chris Kirk were declared co-medalists after the two tied and could not complete a playoff because of team travel plans.
Martin and Kirk were tied through 51 holes Oct. 25 until the Oklahoma State sophomore began to resemble Isleworth’s most famous club member, Tiger Woods. Martin, ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, made bogey on the 14th hole and followed with a three-putt double bogey on the 15th to quickly give away his lead. But he stuck his approach to 3 feet on the par-4 16th hole, then hit his second shot on the par-5 17th to within an inch for a tap-in eagle. Martin made bogey on the 18th to shoot 73 in extremely windy conditions and end with a 4-under-par 212 total. Kirk shot 75 to finish second at 214, but helped his Bulldogs defend their the team title.
All anyone could talk about was Martin’s approach on the slightly downwind 17th. After smashing a drive on the 590-yard hole, Martin had 224 yards to the pin. He stepped on a 4-iron, the ball hit the front of the green and rolled smoothly toward the hole before hitting the pin and finishing an inch from the cup.
“Lucky,” Martin said with a sheepish grin. “You never know what’s going to happen. It could have bounced short and rolled back down the hill. It was a lucky shot.”
Whether luck or skill, Martin battled the elements better than anyone and looked right at home on a course that’s home to some of the world’s top professionals. He made bogey on the first hole, then made seven consecutive pars before closing the front side with a birdie to turn at even par.
Only Georgia senior Kevin Kisner (72) managed a better score than Martin on a day when the scoring average was 80.2. (The scoring average was 75.03 over the first 36 holes.) The tournament originally called for 18 holes over three consecutive days. However, inclement weather brought by Hurricane Wilma caused tournament officials to play 36 holes the first day, cancel the second day and play the final 18 holes on Day 3.
Wake Forest led Georgia by a shot after 36 holes and Demon Deacons junior Sean Moore was the individual leader by a shot. After sleeping on the lead for more than a day, Wake Forest was out of sorts from the beginning. Ultimately, the Demon Deacons shot the second-highest score of the day (330), with senior Kyle Reifers’ 80 the team’s lowest score. Moore shot a dismal 87 – saying he hadn’t scored that high since he was 8 – and Wake Forest dropped into a fourth-place tie with Arizona State at 899.
“We’re a little shell-shocked,” Wake Forest coach Jerry Haas said. “It was a rough day, and we didn’t handle the situation like I know we can. We have to get a little tougher.”
Georgia had taken a 10-shot lead through nine holes of the final round but gave eight shots back in the next three to set up a shootout with Oklahoma State in Mike McGraw’s debut as Cowboys coach. Top-ranked Georgia pulled away down the stretch and won by seven, shooting 287-283-302 for an 8-over 872 total. Georgia and Oklahoma State (879) shot the lowest scores of the day at 302, with New Mexico next closest at 309. UCLA’s 331 was a tournament-high.
“You don’t want to play in too many of these – they’re ego killers,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said of the high scores. “If we’d have lost, we’d have been disappointed. But these conditions let you see what your guys are made of, and they responded. It’s been a good week.”