Virginia’s Derek Bard closed the 62nd Sunnehanna Amateur with a 4-under 66 to seal a one-stroke victory over Scott Wolfes, a recent Georgia Southern grad. Bard carded four rounds in the 60s to finish at 12-under 268 in Johnstown, Pa.
A trio of players – Will Grimmer, Chase Koepka and Brandon Matthews – tied for third, two strokes back.
“Four or five guys had the potential to win,” said Bard. “It was kind of a toss-up there for a while.”
Bard, a junior at Virginia who finished the season ranked 65th by Golfweek, began the day two strokes back of Koepka. Bard birdied Nos. 1 and 3 to erase the deficit and then took a two-stroke lead on the fourth hole when Koepka made double-bogey.
With leaderboards on the course, Bard knew after he birdied the 15th and parred the 16th that he had a two-shot lead with two holes to play. He tried the play the long, par-4 17th conservatively, but made bogey. A par down the last secured his first big amateur title.
Bard failed to advance through U.S. Open sectional qualifying but told his parents this wasn’t too bad of a runner-up prize.
“I’d take this any day,” he said.
A former hockey player from upstate New York, Bard won the U.S. Collegiate last fall and posted five top 10s. When he came to Virginia two summers ago, Bard said he was playing some of the worst golf of his life. He credited Virginia coach Bowen Sargent for helping him make immediate swing changes as a freshman.
“From there on I’ve gotten better ever since,” he said.
And now Bard can sit back and follow Denny McCarthy, a two-time captain for the Cavs who led the team with a 70.94 average, compete on the weekend at Chambers Bay. Bard said he and McCarthy have texted back and forth each day, and the recent grad is “having the time of his life out there.”
Bard, a rising junior, said he looks at McCarthy like an older brother. From McCarthy, Bard learned how to be the face of a team and gain the respect of his peers.
And this valuable lesson: “He’s very good at getting the ball around the course when you don’t have your best. He taught me how to do that.”