It can be really helpful to have the reigning U.S. Amateur champion in your lineup.
Hearkening back to the kind of clutch play – let’s face it, you have to possess the clutch gene to win a U.S. Amateur – that won him the most prestigious title in amateur golf, Doc Redman, a sophomore from Raleigh, N.C., birdied his last two holes Tuesday to give Clemson, No. 16 in the latest Golfstat rankings, a one-shot victory over reigning national champion Oklahoma in a thrilling edition of the Puerto Rico Classic, which wrapped up Tuesday at the Rio Mar Country Club’s Ocean Course in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
Redman’s fast finish helped the Tigers post an even-par 284 over the 6,716-yard, par-71 Ocean Course for a 2-over an 854 total that edged the Cowboys, who entered the Puerto Rico Classic ranked eighth, but moved up a spot to seventh in the last couple of days. Oklahoma, which opened with a sizzling 10-under 274, finished up with a 3-over 855 total.
No. 42 Purdue was another two shots behind Oklahoma in third at 5-over 857 after a final-round 290. No. 10 Georgia Tech, which held a five-shot lead over Purdue going into the final round after opening with an 8-under 276 and adding a 2-over 286 in the second round, slipped to a 297 in the final round to finish fourth at 7-over 859, two shots behind Purdue.
Alabama took the No. 1 ranking into the event and fell to fourth in the rankings after finishing fifth at 866, seven shots behind Purdue. I’ll mention the rankings often because they are a helpful snapshot of where everybody stands at that moment, but the Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 or No. 4, are formidable.
Alabama boasted the individual champion in Lee Hodges, a senior from Ardmore, Tenn. whose final round of 1-under 71 gave him a 7-under 206 total and a two-shot victory over Redman’s Clemson teammate Turk Petit, a freshman from Auburn, Ala. Alabama, led by Hodges, finished up with a solid 4-over 288 in the final round.
Georgia, ranked 77th, finished sixth at 15-over 867, a shot behind Alabama. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bulldogs move up in the rankings as the spring progresses. North Carolina State, ranked 32nd, finished seventh in the 15-team field, carding a final-round 300 for an 18-over 870 total, three shots behind Georgia.
Petit was rock solid for Clemson in chasing Hodges home. He opened with a pair of 2-under 69s and added a final-round 70 to take runnerup honors in the individual chase at 5-under 208. Backing him up for the Tigers was Colby Patton, a freshman from Fountain Inn, S.C., who was part of a five-way tie for seventh at even-par 213.
Patton’s father Chris won the 1989 U.S. Amateur at my favorite golf course, the historic East Course at Merion Golf Club in the Ardmore section of Haverford Township. Colby Patton matched par in the final round with a 72.
The next Clemson player to win the U.S. Amateur, Redman, finished tied for 17th at 3-over 216. But after a pair of 73s, he saved his best for last, those two final birdies giving him a final round of 2-under 70.
Bryson Nimmer, a junior from Bluffton, S.C., finished tied for 21st for the Tigers, a shot behind Redman in the group tied for 21st at 4-over 217. Rounding out the Clemson lineup was Kyle Cottam, a freshman from Knoxville, Tenn. who finished tied for 52nd at 226 after a final-round 75.
Heading a group of three players tied for third at 4-under 209 was N.C. State’s Stephen Franken, a junior from Raleigh, N.C. who lit up the Ocean Course to the tune of a 9-under 62 in the opening round. There were a lot of low numbers yielded by a vulnerable Ocean Course in Sunday’s opening round, but 62 is 62. He fell back with rounds of 74 and 73.
Also in that group tied for third at 209 was another Alabama player, Davis Riley, a junior from Hattiesburg, Miss. Riley was solid throughout with rounds of 68, 71 and 70. Rounding out the trio at 209 was Oklahoma’s Quade Cummins, a redshirt sophomore from Weatherford, Okla. Cummins was equally consistent, sandwiching a 2-under 69 in the middle round with a pair of 1-under 70s.
Purdue’s Jason Hong, a freshman from Australia, carded a final-round 70 to finish alone in sixth at 1-under 212.
Georgia Tech had three of its players in the group along with Clemson’s Patton tied for seventh at even-par 213. They were Noah Norton, a freshman from Chico, Calif., Tyler Strafaci, a sophomore from Devine, Fla., and Chris Petefish, a senior from Danville, Calif. Strafaci had a final-round 73 and Norton and Petefish checked in with a 74 and a 75, respectively.
Rounding out the quintet at even-par 213 was Georgia’s Trevor Phillips, a sophomore from Spartanburg, S.C. Phillips finished up with a 3-over 74.