NAPLES, Fla – Caleb Surratt had only done two bogeys and one double bogey in 47 holes of the 25th Terra Cotta Invitational presented by Workday.
But the No. 13 and No. 15 bogeys put him tied with Maxwell Ford with three holes to go.
Surratt, a 17-year-old headed for Tennessee, and Ford, an 18-year-old on his way to Georgia, struggled the next two holes, and when Ford left a 40-foot birdie 10 feet short on No.17 and missed it, Surratt carried a one-stroke lead to the last hole at the Naples National Golf Club on Sunday.
Surratt finished in style, draining a 15-foot birdie putt to win by two.
“It was definitely a tough end for all of us – the wind started to pick up,” Surratt said. “It’s a nice finish with a birdie on 18; It was really good. I’ve been working really hard for a long time and been really close a lot of times, and it’s great to finally be able to make it happen.
Ford made another bogey, so Surratt ended up with a two-stroke win at 3 under 213.
“Being tied with three holes and two holes to go, you can’t really ask for much more experience,” said Ford. “You had a chance to win the tournament. I really don’t think I hit that many bad shots when I arrived.
Surratt, who is from Indian Trail, North Carolina, was the only golfer in the Top 70 amateur field to finish under par.
“One thing for me was realizing that I’ve been golfing all week – I think I’ve had the fewest bogeys on the course,” Surratt said. “When I’m doing a bogey and I’m really angry at the start, I just try to keep the perspective that you’re playing really well. You don’t throw as many shots, and just keep hooking up the way you were.
Surratt, whose father Brent was his junior, had the edge-to-edge advantage, shooting a under-3 69 in the first round, and entering the final round tied with 18-year-old Cohen Trolio. But he never gave up.
“It was kind of like he didn’t really miss a shot,” said Ford, who is from Peachtree Corners, Ga.
Sunday wasn’t a good one for the Southwest Florida contingent, three of whom were within headshot distance.
But James Tureskis of Florida State, who started in the sixth, stumbled to a 49 front nine on the way to an 85 and tied for 40th. Sam Kodak, an FSU engagement, shot a 78 and tied for 16th. Jack Irons was in the top 10 with four holes to play, but played them 5 out and finished 14th with 6 of 222. Ryan Hart, who plays for Florida, had the fastest lap, with a 2 under 70 in the end. tied for the 24th. He was one of four players to beat parity in the last round.
Florida Gulf Coast University golfer Van Holmgren, who just won the ASUN tournament title on Tuesday, was 10th at 221 with a par 72.
Carl Santos-Ocampo, a former community school and Notre Dame golfer, had a hole in one on par 3 17th from 169 yards with a 7 iron, and shot a 77 to equalize for the 40th .
Surratt birdied at No. 9 to close a minute three-hour front nine by the last group to take a three-stroke lead at the back. And he seemed in control before the middle of the back nine when he crossed the 13th par-4 in two and couldn’t get up and down, then missed a 3-foot putt on the 15th par-5.
Ford, whose twin brother David retired with a back injury, had taken a break in the hole when his third shot rolled into the neck of the green, and into the rocks guarding the water hazard on the green , then returned to where he could put it. He made two putts to get the tie.
At No. 16, a par 4, both players crossed the green – Ford from the fairway and Surratt from the pine straw to the left. Neither went up and down.
On the 17th par 3, Ford’s shot fell to 40 feet and left his bird putt very short, and Surratt narrowly missed his 15 feet.
Ford’s foul gave Surratt the lead again, and he played the 18th perfectly, lying down, then hitting it 15 feet.
Trolio, an LSU entry, went back nine tied with Ford at 2 under, but played back nine 3 over to finish third at 1 over 217 with former US Mid-Amateur Champion Scott Harvey.
Now Surratt is returning to high school to play in the State Tournament Series there, and plans to try and qualify for the Wells Fargo PGA Tour Championship in a few weeks.
“I know I can compete at this level with my good golf,” said Surratt. “I have done this in previous amateur events. This makes it even better to do it. We worked on a lot of things that we thought would make a difference and they did it this week, so it’s amazing.
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at [email protected] Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/