Winning the state's biggest amateur golf tournament is rarely easy, but Austin Eoff knows that. After all, he needed a playoff to win last year's title.
Extra holes weren't needed this time for the Benton golfer, who birdied No. 18 to clinch his second consecutive Arkansas State Golf Association State Amateur title Sunday on the Arlington Course at Hot Springs Country Club. Eoff, an incoming senior at Purdue, wrapped up the one-shot victory with a final-round 68, finishing at 12 under par.
"I knew the pins would be hard today," said Eoff, coming off a first-team all-Big Ten junior campaign. "I just tried to stay patient and hit a lot of greens."
Eoff finished one better than final-round playing partners Kerry Lott of Dardanelle and Garrett May of Hope. Eoff and Lott entered the day tied for the lead, but May, one back after two rounds, made the initial move of an all-day battle with birdies on two of the first four holes for a one-stroke lead.
Eoff and Lott took that back with consecutive birdies on 5 and 6, but May, entering his sophomore season at Baylor, countered with a birdie on 7 and regained the lead when Eoff and Lott both bogeyed the par-3 eighth. Eoff then turned it around with a birdie on the par-5 ninth, Lott settling for par and May bogey after both were way left on their second shots.
"Through nine, it seemed like we were all birdieing the same holes and bogeying the same holes," Eoff said.
May's deficit fell to two with a par on the 10th while Eoff and Lott made birdie, May undone by shooting even par on the four par 5s. He rallied with a birdie that was nearly an ace on the par-3 11th, and Eoff let everybody back into it by hooking his driver into the hazard on 12, leading to a bogey.
"I just don't like that hole," Eoff said. "I play out here a lot, and I do not like that hole. I played it good the first two days, but it was just a bad swing. I hit my driver good all day except for that hole. I was just in my brain on that hole. Nothing else."
May picked up one stroke with a par, but Lott took full advantage with a birdie, taking a one-shot lead that only lasted until the dangerous 13th. Lott was short of the false front on the approach and two-putted for bogey, resulting in the day's third three-way tie.
"I hit a good chip shot up," said Lott, leader in the ASGA player-of-the-year standings. "I hit a good putt. It's just that above these holes is the wrong place to be."
Eoff recovered from 12 with a pair of conservatively played pars before attacking No. 15, the short par 4, for a birdie and another taste of the lead. Lott countered with his best shot of the day, a chip-in birdie from off the 16th green for a tie.
"It felt good because I hit a good shot in on 14, back left, and missed that," Lott said. "That one hurt, and to chip in on 16, I was right there."
Eoff and Lott both hit pressure par putts on 17 before the par-5 18th. Lott hit his tee shot under a tree while Eoff was in the middle of the fairway, and Lott's bad lie led to his second shot being near the front bunker and his third still not on the green.
"It was one I had to hit thin and try to get it between the two bunkers," said Lott of his second shot. "I had a root behind it and a root in front of it. I just hit into the wrong spot at the wrong time."
Eoff hit a 7-iron near the green with his second shot, chipped his third within two feet of the cup and tapped in for birdie, 4-under 68 and 204 for the weekend.
"I hit a good drive, so I really didn't want to go that far long," Eoff said. "I was in between clubs, so I went with the shorter one. I thought if I went 6-iron, it was more likely to go a different direction. So I went with 7-iron and didn't hit it as far as I thought. The chip wasn't that bad. I knew the tee shot was the most important part of that hole, and once I hit a good tee shot, I knew I had a good chance at an eagle if I had to make eagle."
Lott's birdie chip was close but not enough, settling for par and 3-under 69. May recovered from being on 9 from his tee shot and No. 1 from his second shot for a birdie, tying Lott at 205.
But it was Eoff hoisting the E.B. Gee trophy for the second time in as many years.
"It feels good to do it," Eoff said. "I think I put a lot of pressure on myself just because I know I can win. To do it and repeat it is big. It's mission accomplished, I guess. It's what I was trying to do, and I did it. It feels good to have it done."
May and Lott finished three shots ahead of Benton's Austin Harmon and Sherwood's Stafford Gray tied for fourth at 8 under. Lakeside graduate Brice Howard (209) entered the day tied for third with May but fell back to sixth after shooting even 72 Sunday.
Howard was the highest local finisher while fellow Lakeside High grad Cameron McRae overcame his second-round 75 with his second 68 of the weekend, surging to a ninth-place tie. Both received top-10 flags commemorating the 24th time HSCC has hosted the event.
Seth Garner, the third of five Lakeside grads in the amateur division and in the playoff with Eoff last year at Country Club of Little Rock, finished 15th at 1-under 215.
Only the senior division needed a playoff, Fort Smith's Ronny Ocker defeating Hot Springs Village's Fred Stamey with a par on the first hole after each finished at 2-under 214. Little Rock's Tracy Harris (224) won the mid-senior title by one over Jason Palecek, also of Little Rock, and Oscar Taylor, two-time defending player of the year, took the super-senior crown by four strokes over Joe Bushee, both of Hot Springs Village.
Arkansas State Golf Association
State Amateur Championship
Hot Springs Country Club
Arlington Course, Par: 72
x-won on 1st playoff hole
Austin Eoff, Benton 69-67-68--204 -12
Kerry Lott, Dardanelle 69-67-69--205 -11
Garrett May, Hope 70-67-68--205 -11
Stafford Gray, Sherwood 69-69-70--208 -8
Austin Harmon, Benton 68-70-70--208 -8
Brice Howard, Hot Springs 67-70-72--209 -7
Luke Long, Fayetteville 68-72-70--210 -6
Tyler Reynolds, Little Rock 71-70-69--210 -6
Cameron McRae, Hot Springs 68-75-68--211 -5
Nick Zimmerman, North Little Rock 71-71-69--211 -5
Beau Glover, North Little Rock 73-67-73--213 -3
Price Murphree, Camden 72-71-71--214 -2
Connor Neil, Springdale 72-72-70--214 -2
Michael Wharton-Palmer, Texarkana 68-71-75--214 -2
Seth Garner, Hot Springs 70-71-74--215 -1
Chuck Gardner, Texarkana 74-70-75--219 E
Chris Jenkins, Little Rock 68-77-71--216 E
Barrett Lais, Rogers 71-69-76--216 E
Bryon Shumate, Fort Smith 73-70-73--216 E
Wes McNulty, White Hall 75-70-73--218 +2
Gordy McKeown, Little Rock 71-76-72--219 +3
Joey Nichols, Little Rock 75-72-72--219 +3
Trey Schaap, Little Rock 72-72-75--219 +3
Wesley Harris, Hot Springs 72-72-77--221 +5
Mark Graham, Fort Smith 74-72-74--220 +4
Stan Payne, Little Rock 77-70-73--220 +4
Grayson Jones, Texarkana 70-76-76--222 +6
Carson Roberts, Conway 71-76-75--222 +6
Conley Hurst, Little Rock 70-78-75--223 +7
Jeff Smith, Greenwood 71-77-75--223 +7
Peyton Wilhoit, Searcy 75-73-75--223 +7
Lee Hiers, Hot Springs 76-72-76--224 +8
Drew Greenwood, Hot Springs 71-76-79--226 +10
Matt Feimster, Sheridan 76-72-79--227 +11
Tracy Harris, Little Rock 79-70-75--224 +8
Jason Palecek, Little Rock 79-74-72--225 +9
Billy Blackburn, El Dorado 75-77-76--228 +12
Timothy Burke, HSV 79-74-77--230 +14
Austin Franks, Little Rock 75-81-77--233 +17
Timo Anderson, Little Rock 78-77-80--235 +19
x-Ronny Ocker, Fort Smith 69-74-71--214 -2
Fred Stamey, HSV 69-71-74--214 -2
Ben Loftis, Benton 71-73-76--220 +4
David Shirey, Camden 72-73-75--220 +4
John Tetens, Conway 72-72-77--221 +5
Bobby Baker, Little Rock 75-75-72--222 +6
Ronnie Johnson, Hot Springs 74-73-76--223 +7
Bev Hargraves, Helena-West Helena 76-73-74--223 +7
Richard Simpson, Little Rock 77-78-74--229 +13
Jay Lester, Conway 78-77-75--230 +14
Randy Lloyd, Conway 75-76-80--231 +15
Frank Ramey, Little Rock 76-78-77--231 +15
Rick Coatney, Fort Smith 79-77-76--232 +16
Ron Richard, Fort Smith 74-76-83--233 +17
Greg Connell, Russellville 75-78-82--235 +19
Super senior division
Oscar Taylor, HSV 71-73-74--218 +2
Joe Bushee, HSV 70-77-75--222 +6
Glen Talbert, Sheridan 76-69-79--224 +8
Charlie Angel, Hot Springs 76-73-76--225 +9
Dan Young, Pine Bluff 75-74-80--229 +13
John Carter, Camden 79-76-75--230 +14
Bill Wrentz, Cabot 74-82-78--234 +18
Sam McAllister, Bryant 77-76-82--235 +19Sports on 06/20/2016