SEA ISLAND, Ga. – When Garrett Barber turns professional, he might want to think about setting up shop in the Sea Island area. The 17-year-old LSU signee has already had quite the success on the Georgia coast.
In December 2016, Barber won the Jones Cup Junior at Sea Island Golf Club in nearby St. Simons Island. Less than two months later, he tied for 32nd at the 2017 Jones Cup after a closing 80, though he did make a hole-in-one in the final round at Ocean Forest Golf Club to go home with some hardware.
Then on Sunday at Ocean Forest, Barber won the 2018 Jones Cup in a playoff over Vanderbilt senior Theo Humphrey. The Stuart, Fla., resident is now the first player to have won both the Jones Cup Junior and Jones Cup. And for his latest victory, he receives an exemption into the 2018 RSM Classic.
“Jones Cup Junior was pretty much my first big win, which got my confidence up for this past year and this week,” said Barber, who is ranked fourth in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings and won his first AJGA invitational, the Rolex Tournament of Champions, last November.
Barber needed that confidence after bogeying his 54th hole to fall into a playoff with Humphrey at 4 under. Barber found the sand twice at the par-4 18th and then lipped out a 10-footer for par while Humphrey, in the same group on Sunday, made a 4-foot birdie putt after drawing a 9-iron in from 168 yards.
The world’s 16th-ranked amateur, Humphrey, suddenly had all the momentum. But before the playoff, Barber calmly rolled in some putts on the practice green before finding the fairway at the first playoff hole, par-4 first. Humphrey was also in the fairway, but further back, and after Humphrey pulled his approach shot about 18 feet left of the pin, Barber wedged it to about 5 feet.
After Humphrey missed his putt right, Barber redeemed himself by sinking the tournament-winner.
“He played an unbelievable round,” Humphrey said of Barber. “… It was a special day for him. It was fun to watch, but obviously at my expense.”
After opening with consecutive 1-over 73s, Barber went off in the third-to-last group Sunday, trailing leader Jake Fendt by three shots. He made just four pars in his first 14 holes. He had an up-and-down birdie at the par-5 third hole before making three 20-plus-foot birdie putts on Nos. 5, 6 and 8. He also carded two bogeys on his front nine.
“On 9, when I turned at 2 under I figured I would be in the mix at 1 under,” Barber said. “To start the way I did on the back nine was insane.”
After having to pitch out of the bunker with his second shot at the par-5 10th hole, Barber had 200 yards left to the hole. He then hit 5-iron and as soon as the ball left the clubface, Barber knew it was going to be good.
“I knew it was really good, but I didn’t think it was going in,” Barber said.
Buckets. The eagle moved Barber to within two shots of Fendt. He then stayed hot with the putter, making 25-footers for birdie on Nos. 12 and 13 before adding a third straight birdie, from 5 feet, at the par-5 14th hole.
Barber’s final-round 6-under 66 tied a tournament record.
“This is probably one of my best putting rounds,” Barber said. “Usually ballstriking is my strength. Today, pretty much all of them went in. … I had that feeling a little bit (that it was my day).”
Said LSU head coach Chuck Winstead: “He’s extraordinarily gifted tee to green and golf courses like Ocean Forest, that’s about as hard of a test as it comes tee to green. He has a great demeanor for competitor because he is calm, but there’s a lot of fire in there. … Obviously he’s shown that he can make them (putts), but if he gets it to where his putting is as strong as his ballstriking, he’s going to be tough to handle.”
As for Humphrey, it was nearly his day. For the second straight round, he didn’t card a bogey, which is rare around a tough Ocean Forest layout. He also made five birdies to shoot 5-under 67.
For as great as his approach into 18 was, Humphrey’s shot of the day came at the par-4 16th. Humphrey hooked his drive left into the hazard, but was able to find the green and give himself a look at birdie despite having a nasty lie.
“I had driven so great all week and 16 was the first ball I really turned over too much and hooked it a bit and it got over in that hazard,” Humphrey said. “I had an opening – I had to hook it about 40 yards with a 9-iron – and hit a great shot. I was just lucky I didn’t hit anything weird in there and it came out and I ended up giving myself a chance for birdie.”
The Greenwich, Conn., native has had several close calls in the last year, including at the 2017 U.S. Amateur, where he was a semifinalist. He just has yet to get a victory.
“You’ve got to look at this as pretty much all positive,” Humphrey said. “Just the really only negative is basically in the last year I’ve had a lot of second- and third-place finishes and haven’t won anything, so that’s a little frustrating in that regard.
“But I mean, I lost to guy who shot 6 under out here and birdied the first playoff hole, so I kind of did what I needed to do for the most part and just got beat.”
Fendt, who carded a closing 70, bogeyed the 16th hole to miss out on the playoff and finish T-3 at 3 under with Ole Miss signee Jackson Suber. Defending champion Braden Thornberry finished T-8 at 3 over.