SOUTHPORT,NC (news release) -- Josh Brock of nearby Wilmington, NC entered the final round of the eGolf Tour’s Championship at St. James Plantation trailing 54-hole leader Peter Malnati of Dandridge, TN by one shot following rounds of 71-71-68—210. After trading shots for much of the day, a late eagle on a perfect Southport afternoon gave the former UNC Wilmington star his first career eGolf Tour title, and the $25,000 first-place prize.
The Championship at St. James Plantation was the sixth of 24 scheduled events on the 2012 eGolf Tour schedule, and was contested this week at both the Reserve Club and Founders Club courses at St. James Plantation in Southport, NC.
Brock’s final round on the host Reserve Club course began in solid fashion, with three opening pars and a birdie at the par-4 fourth to move to 7-under on the day, one shot behind Malnati, who had birdied No. 3 to move to 8-under.
A bogey by Malnati at the tough par-3 sixth gave way to an up-and-down for birdie by Brock from a greenside bunker at the par-5 seventh, and the tables had quickly turned on the opening nine. Brock, then 8-under for the event, had tied Chesson Hadley for the lead – who turned at 5-under 31 to reach 8-under himself.
“I got off to a good start with some quality iron shots, and had some really good speed on my putts,” said Brock, 23.
Pars by both Brock and Malnati at the par-4 eighth led to a Malnati birdie at the short par-4 ninth, and there were suddenly three tied for the lead, with Hadley making his move three holes ahead.
Josh BrockJosh Brock
“When we went to the back nine, I told my caddie that we needed to play U.S. Open golf, because that is a tough nine holes of golf,” said Brock. “I felt like even par would get the job done.”
Pars by Brock and Malnati on Nos. 10 and 11 took the pair to the long par-5 12th, where Malnati was able to convert a 4-foot birdie try to take sole possession of the lead at 9-under par.
Up ahead, Hadley came unraveled with back-to-back bogeys on 15 and 16 to fall back to 6-under par for the event, and out of contention.
A pulled Malnati approach shot on the par-4 14th led to a bogey, and when he pulled yet another approach to the narrow par-4 15th for a follow-up bogey, Brock had ascended into the lead with pars that kept him at a steady 8-under.
“Peter hit those two pulls and really left himself some tough up-and-downs from where he missed the greens,” Brock said. “That kind of got me going because I moved into the lead by making the pars I was trying to make anyways.”
Matching pars by both on the par-3 16th brought the day’s final pairing to the reachable par-5 17th, where Brock seized control of the tournament.
A perfect tee shot left Brock roughly 225 yards from the pin.
A flawless hybrid approach shot left the rest of the field playing for second place.
“I had a good number on 17 and hit a 21-degree hybrid up to 20 feet. I knew if I could make that I could get a cushion going to the last,” he said.
With a large crowd of supporters watching, Brock drained the 20-foot eagle putt to vault up to 10-under for the tournament and three shots clear of second place with just the par-4 18th to play.
A blocked tee shot at the last left Brock with a less-than-ideal approach to the final-round hole location at the 18th, but a stout short-iron approach to 5 feet set up what would become his first eGolf Tour victory walk.
With four putts to spare, Brock needed just two to close with a par at the 72nd hole, a final-round 68, a 10-under 278 total, and his first eGolf Tour win.
“This win is huge for me. I got off to a rough start this year and started to get down on myself,” said Brock, who missed four of five cuts entering the week at St. James. “You start wondering ‘What am I doing out here?’ But luckily I kept things together and kept working at it, and it paid off.”
The residents at St. James and the local fans from Wilmington set up a PGA TOUR-like atmosphere over the closing nine on Saturday afternoon. When Brock drained his eagle putt at the 71st hole, an echo of roars could be heard throughout the Carolina pines that dot the Jack Nicklaus-designed Reserve Club layout.
“The support out there was great. It seemed like every day had more and more people out supporting me. I really felt the energy out there,” said Brock, who played bogey-free golf over his final 36 holes. “It was a fun atmosphere to play in, no doubt.”
The $25,000 first-place prize moved Brock’s 2012 earnings up to $26,050, which place him at No. 6 on the tour’s money list.
Malnati and Shawn Jasper of Marthasville, MO finished in a tie for second at 7-under 281, three shots behind Brock. Each player earned $12,000 on the week.
For Malnati, the T2 effort marked a career-best finish and his first top-5 on the eGolf Tour since a solo-third-place effort at the Grand Harbor Open last August.
It also marked Malnati’s second-consecutive top-10 at St. James, as he posted rounds of 74-72-70-70—286 at the event’s 2011 edition to finish T6.
Malnati’s week began in record-setting fashion with a first-round 63 at the co-host Founders Club course. The 9-under effort, which gave him the day one lead by three shots, bested the club’s prior course record of 65, set by 2011 winner and current PGA TOUR member Jason Kokrak.
Jasper, a former University of Missouri golfer, spent all of 2011 on the Nationwide Tour, but made just one cut in 16 total starts. The start at St. James marked Jasper’s third of the year on the eGolf Tour. In two prior starts, he had notched a T14 finish at the Palmetto Hall Championship and a missed cut at the Oldfield Open.
The T2, courtesy of a steady 71-68-72-70—281 scorecard, was Jasper’s first top-10 on the eGolf Tour since a T10 finish at the 2010 Savannah Quarters Classic.
Finishing in a tie for fourth at 6-under 282 was Chesson Hadley of Raleigh, NC and T.J. Howe of Osceola, PA. Each player earned $7,500 for their efforts.
Hadley made one of the day’s early moves with five birdies in his first seven holes to move into the lead at 8-under par. A front-nine 31 gave the former Georgia Tech star the solo lead for roughly 15 minutes, before being matched by Brock’s birdie at No. 7.
However, the back nine proved to be less fruitful for Hadley, who pared Nos. 10 through 14 before carding his first bogey of the day at the par-4 15th. A follow-up bogey at No. 16 left Hadley with a 3-under 69 on the day, and a 6-under 282 total.
The finish was Hadley’s third top-5 of the 2012 season, pairing with T5 and T3 finishes at the Oldfield Open and Pine Needles Classic, respectively. His $7,500 check pushed his 2012 earnings up to $28,520, which places him at No. 5 on the tour’s money list.
Howe, the tournament’s 36-hole leader following rounds of 66-69—135, struggled on Friday with a 3-over 75 to fall to 6-under entering Saturday’s final round. Three bogeys in his first eight holes gave the former Penn State golfer a front-nine 38, but he bounced back admirably on the closing nine with four birdies for a 2-under 34 and a final-round 72.
The finish was a career-best for Howe, and marked his second top-10 of the 2012 season dating back to a T6 at the season-opening Palmetto Hall Championship.
1 United States Josh Brock [RC] -10 F -4 71 71 68 68 278 $25,000.00
T2 United States Shawn Jasper [RC] -7 F -2 71 68 72 70 281 $12,000.00
T2 United States Peter Malnati [RC] -7 F E 63 76 70 72 281 $12,000.00
T4 United States Chesson Hadley [RC] -6 F -3 66 70 77 69 282 $7,500.00
T4 United States T.J. Howe [RC] -6 F E 66 69 75 72 282 $7,500.00
6 United States Kevin Foley [RC] -5 F -2 75 71 67 70 283 $6,000.00
T7 United States Dustin Bray [RC] -4 F -2 72 72 70 70 284 $4,166.67
T7 United States Connor Arendell [RC] -4 F -1 72 69 72 71 284 $4,166.67
T7 United States David Robinson [RC] -4 F E 66 70 76 72 284 $4,166.67
• With his win, Josh Brock earned an exemption into the Nationwide Tour’s South Georgia Classic presented by First State Bank and Trust Company on April 26-29, to be contested at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club in Valdosta, GA. It will mark Brock’s first career start in a Nationwide Tour event. Current PGA TOUR member Jason Kokrak, who won this event last year, won the last two South Georgia Classic exemptions awarded by the eGolf Tour.
• A special thanks goes to the members of The Clubs at St. James Plantation for allowing the tour to use their fantastic facilities for the week, and for providing such excellent volunteer help, fan support and optional housing for our players. The tour would also like to thank St. James Director of Operations Dave Flinchbaugh, Director of Group Sales Gary Downing, Founders Club Head Golf Professional Brian Walker, Reserve Club Head Golf Professional Barry Walters, and their respective staffs for their help in arranging this tournament and assisting the tour during the week. Both courses presented flawless greens and what can only be described as PGA TOUR-like fairways. The tour is only as good as the golf courses we play, so thank you to Director of Agronomy Conrad Broussard, Founders Club Golf Course Superintendent Dockery Steed, Reserve Club Golf Course Superintendent David Blasingame, and their crews for offering two fantastic venues and working around the clock to assist the tour staff with their respective courses.
• The tour will head to Greensboro, NC next week for the Forest Oaks Classic, to be contested at Forest Oaks Country Club on April 18-20.