When Dave Womack arrived at Forest Highlands Golf Club for his first U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, he was pretty much an unknown, having not played in any national events since regaining his amateur status in 2003.
In fact, unless you followed golf in the state of Georgia, you’ve probably never heard his name.
“I’d have to say I was pretty much under everyone’s radar coming in here,” said Womack, who won the 2003 and ’05 Georgia Public Links titles and tied for second at this year’s Georgia State Mid-Amateur.
When he packed up to leave, that was no longer the case.
Womack, 27, of McDonough, Ga., sank a pressure-packed, 5-foot downhill par-saving putt on the 36th hole Sept. 14 to defeat Ryan Hybl of Winterville, Ga., 1 up.
In addition to the trophy and a host of exemptions for USGA events, Womack’s victory lands him an invitation to the Masters in April.
“Everyone who plays the game dreams of playing in the Masters, and especially if you’re born and raised in Georgia,” said Womack, who works for McGarity Insurance Agency in McDonough. “I can’t express how I feel right now. I know that when that invitation comes in the mail, it’s going to be super.”
Hybl, 25, in his second year as assistant men’s golf coach at the University of Georgia, his alma mater, was encouraged by his play considering he pretty much gave up playing competitively two years ago when his game went south.
“I think this week I showed myself I could go out and play again,” said Hybl, who was the AJGA Player of the Year in 1998 and an All-American his first two years at Georgia before his on-course struggles began. “To me, there were no real losers here today. We both played some pretty good golf and it was a great match.”
Womack played at Georgia State University, graduating in 2001. After playing in the ’01 U.S. Amateur at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, he turned professional.
It was a short trip. He played a few mini-tour events around the Southeast with little success.
Womack said the victory was for family, friends and the people of McDonough, a town of about 15,000 outside Atlanta. But mostly it was for his late brother, Brian, and his soon-to-be 91-year-old grandfather, L.P. McKibben, key figures in getting Womack started in the game.
His brother, seven years his elder, was killed in an auto accident 10 years ago. His grandfather, an avid golfer all his life who has played at Augusta National a number of times, was recently hospitalized with a heart condition.
“My brother, I just wish he was here to see this,” Womack said, fighting back tears. “He was so special to me. And my grandfather, I know this is going to mean so much to him.”