2005: Thompson breaks through at Jones
Sea Island, Ga.
Roberto Castro sounded a bit confused Feb. 19 as he walked away from the scoring table outside the clubhouse at Ocean Forest Golf Club, where he and 83 other top amateurs gathered Feb. 18-20 to play in the third biennial Jones Cup Invitational.
“I don’t know,” said Castro, 19, a sophomore at Georgia Tech, when asked why no players in the field had broken 70 for a second consecutive day. “But I’ve got a feeling there’s still a low score out there.”
The following afternoon his teammate, Nicholas Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., backed him up, dropping in a 12-foot birdie putt on 18 to finish off a bogey-free, 6-under-par 66 for a two-stroke victory over high school senior Brian Harman of Savannah, Ga.
Sea Island native and University of Georgia senior Jason Hodges, who took the first-round lead with a 1-under 70, tied for third at 217 with Texas’ Matt Rosenfeld and East Tennessee State’s Rhys Davies. Six players broke 70 on the final day, but none were close to Thompson’s 66.
Watching his ball fall into the cup on No. 18, Thompson, who is tied for fifth in the Golfweek/ Titleist Amateur Rankings, pumped his fist firmly toward the Atlantic Ocean, a spectacular backdrop for such an impressive finish.
“I didn’t know where the guys behind me stood,” said Thompson, a 22-year-old senior, who finished at 2-under 214 (77-71-66). “I was thinking the last putt would just get me closer (to the lead) at least. I knew a low score could be out there, but I knew the wind was starting to blow, and 15, 16, 17 and 18 can just punish people.”
Castro and Harman, co-leaders after the second round, were tied at 2 under before their punishment.
Castro made the first mistake, hitting his tee ball into the marsh on the par-3 17th and making double bogey. He followed with a wayward drive on 18, leading to another double.
“I just happened to make my two worst swings of the tournament on the last two holes,” said Castro, who finished sixth at 71-73-74–218.
On the 18th tee, Harman knew where he stood and ripped his drive on the 457-yard par 4 to what he called “a perfect distance,” 165 yards away.
Aiming for the flag with his approach, Harman, a lefty, pushed the ball with his 7-iron left of the green. Facing a tough up-and-down to force a playoff, he failed to get to his first chip over a steep ridge, leading to a double bogey and sealing Thompson’s victory.
“I just didn’t execute correctly,” said Harman, 18, Golfweek’s top-ranked junior, who will attend the University of Georgia this fall. He announced earlier in the week that he is finished playing junior golf.
“I felt good over the shot. I knew I had the right club, right everything. I just went for the pin. I wasn’t playing for a playoff. I was playing to win.”