In a 72-hole showdown of the best amateur golfers for hundreds of miles, one shaky round or even a not-so-sharp nine can sour someone’s championship hopes.
Billy Tom Sargent got an up-close look at that slim margin for error last week in the 113th Southern Amateur Championship.
Scott County’s Sargent shot 6-under 278 in the event, finishing in a three-way tie for 12th, four shots behind winner A.J. Ott of Fort Collins, Colorado.
The tournament was played Wednesday through Saturday on the Founders course at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Sargent can look back at Thursday’s front nine of the second round and wonder what might have been.
After an opening-day 66 that put him only one shot behind leader Lee Walker of Houston, Sargent started with a double bogey and carded four additional bogeys in his opening sequence.
He scrambled to 35 on the back nine with birdie couplets at Nos. 11 and 12, and again at 16 and 17, offsetting bogeys at 10, 14 and 15.
Sargent registered only three holes over par for the duration of the tournament. He shot 67 on Friday’s “moving day,” vaulting back in contention for a strong finish, and wrapped up with a 68.
The opening round was a masterpiece for Sargent. He sank an eagle putt on the first hole and birdied No. 3 and No. 8 for a scorching 31 at the turn.
Bogeys at 10 and 17 prevented Sargent from owning the clubhouse lead. He countered those with a string of three birdies on 12, 13 and 14, and one more at 16.
Sargent was 5-under for the week on the 12th hole, which he tamed with an eagle in the third round. He also posted birdies at 2, 4, 13 and 15 in that segment.
Putts fell again at 2, 4 and 12 in the finale, with another birdie at 16 for good measure.
Ott won the championship with a birdie on the second playoff hole, defeating Noah Woolsey of Pleasanton, California. Both finished at 10-under 274. Sargent’s score was in a trio with Brandon Smith of Frisco, Texas, and Michael Mattiace of Jacksonville, Florida.
Sargent recently capped his stellar career at Western Kentucky University with an 11th place finish at May’s NCAA championships, also held in Arkansas. He was the Hilltoppers’ first-ever qualifier for the showcase.
Sargent was named an honorable mention PING All-American, the first WKU player to earn that distinction.
He finished the season ranked No. 75 in the nation by Golfstat, posting an average round of 71.5 for the Hilltoppers’ lowest since at least 1994. Over the years Western Kentucky has maintained such statistics, Sargent owns three of the five best seasons in school history.
Five career tournament wins tie Sargent for WKU’s most ever.
While at Scott County High School, Sargent was Kentucky Mr. Golf in both 2012 and 2013.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.