Long story short, Garrett May walked away from the 58th Northeast Amateur a two-shot wire-to-wire winner. Long story long, the 22-year-old who just graduated from Baylor University accomplished the feat while weathering (literally and figuratively) a harrowing final round on Saturday to hang on for the win.
The Texarkana, Texas, native opened the tournament with rounds of 63-67-65 at the par-69 Donald Ross gem outside of Providence, R.I., to take a four-stroke lead at 12 under over Scott Stevens heading into Saturday’s play. It might have seemed like a large cushion, but when you’re trying to capture the biggest win of your amateur career in one of the country’s premier events, well pressure is pressure.
“This isn’t my tournament right now,” May said on Friday night. “I have to go out there and play well tomorrow. I came into [Friday] thinking that everyone was even par and I had to go out and win the day. I am going to take the same mentality [Saturday]. I am not going to protect the lead. If I do, I will lose. It is not my tournament until I hold the trophy.”
Sure enough, May opening with a bogey/par/double bogey/triple bogey start to see his advantage completely disappear when Stevens played the holes in one over par.
The duo remained tied at seven under for the tournament playing the ninth hole when a storm blew through the area, forcing officials to suspend play. The delay lasted nearly two hours, long enough for May to regroup. After returning to the course, May birdied the 11th and 14th holes. Conversely, Stevens struggled after the re-start, making a bogey on the 12th hole and a double on the 14th, dropping him five back of May.
But the afternoon still wasn’t over. To his credit, Stevens birdied the 16th and 17th holes while May stumbled on the par-5 17th, making another double bogey to see his lead fall again to just one stroke with only the home hole to play. A par from May and a bogey from Stevens secured May’s two-shot win over Stevens and Stewart Hagestad, who was already in at five under for the tournament after a Saturday 68.
Final-round scoring was 71.05, higher than the previous day’s average 70.42 mark, which was impacted by Australia’s Karl Vilips shooting a course-record 61.
This was May’s third appearance in the tournament, and this week he played with a heavy heart. Earlier in the month, he learned that his high school golf coach, Jay Brewer, had died of a pulmonary embolism.
“When you are playing golf at this level, if you hit a bad shot or play poorly it seems like it is the end of the world,” May said earlier in the week. “Then something like what happened to coach comes, and you realize hitting bad shots isn’t the worst thing. Whether I lose by one or by a hundred this week that sting won’t sting as hard as losing him.”
The question now is whether the victory will help May gained the attention of the USGA’s International Team selection committee that will be filling out the roster for this September’s U.S. Walker Cup team. The winner of the Northeast Amateur in each of the last four Walker Cup years has made the American squad. Yet May, who finished T-8 earlier this month at the Sunnehanna Amateur, came into the week’s tournament on few people’s watch list, sitting at No. 220 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.