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The comeback of all comebacks yielded the youngest champion in the 40-year history of the H.W. Weatherford Memorial/Wilson County Amateur Golf Championship at Wedgewood Public Golf Course on a hot Sunday afternoon.
Stephen Abrams, age 19, birdied four of the last five holes to erase a two-shot deficit and storm to the Men’s Open championship in his debut.
Abrams, who starred at Beddingfield High, fired a 4-under-par 68 in Sunday’s final round after his opening 2-under-70, and his 6-under 138 total for 36 holes bested Brock Godwin and Chance Cox by a mere shot.
Abrams, Godwin and Cox all shared the lead after 35 holes. But after Godwin and Cox failed to sink birdie putts, Abrams, who will observe his 20th birthday in approximately a month, tapped in his birdie attempt from some two feet to seize the championship.
“I started making putts at the end,” Abrams described his comeback. “They finally started falling. It feels pretty good (to be the youngest champion). It was a lot of fun; we were all under (par) early. We were all under par most of the day.”
Abrams also became part of another precedent. He joins his father, Phillip Abrams, to become the first father-son tandem to capture county titles. Phillip Abrams triumphed in 2001.
Godwin and Cox each finished at 69-70—139. Former champion Kent Williams, the senior entrant in Men’s Open at age 52, wound up fourth at 73-70—143. Figg (69-76) and Ryan Pittman (72-3) tied for fifth at 145.
The final round began with Godwin, Cox and Matt Figg sharing the lead after 3-under-69s Saturday. Cox and Godwin each posted four birdies and Figg three. Abrams, also with four birdies, was a shot back at 2-under.
Godwin grabbed the lead with a birdie at No. 1 Sunday. But Cox birdied Nos. 2 and 3 to surge out front. Godwin reclaimed the lead with birdies at Nos. 6 and 9. Cox owned the lead again when Godwin sputtered. But Godwin forged a one-shot edge with birdies at Nos. 14 and 15. Cox pulled even with a birdie at No. 16.
In the meantime, newcomer Kyle Norville, in the next-to-last group, surged into contention at 3-under, but faded with a bogey at No. 16.
Abrams also birdied Nos. 14 and 16 and forced the three-way tie with a birdie at No. 17. All of the putts were from five feet or less. Then he punched a wedge shot some two feet from the flag on No. 18.
“I knew I was two (shots) back most of the day,” he explained. “I needed to get a few birdies and, somehow, get them and hope they didn’t make any. Chance had been making putts all day and I was sure he was going to make that one on No. 18. I’m glad I stuck it in there tight and could make it really quick.”
Godwin failed to roll in a birdie chance from some 22 feet. Then, Cox missed his try from some six feet.
Cox, Godwin and Figg were each in quest of their first county crown. Cox lamented a pair of missed short putts on the back nine.
“A well-deserved win,” expressed the 35-year-old Godwin. “(Abrams) birdied the last three holes to win it. You tip your hat and congratulate him.
“I was hoping to make a birdie or two the last two holes, but I didn’t put myself in good position to do it. But I’m glad I didn’t give it to anybody.”
Godwin noted, if he could replay one shot, he would have hit a 2-iron instead of a driver off the No. 16 tee. He pointed out he could never win the men’s championship
Happy Valley Country Club, which is now closed, and county supremacy continues to elude him.
“I have been sniffing, but I can’t break through,” he said. “But I was 5-under for the weekend. Sometimes, the other guys play better.”