Auburn’s Brandon Mancheno shot a final round 65 Friday capped by a tie-breaking birdie on the 72nd hole to win the Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club, but he was not the biggest newsmaker from the tournament.
Atlanta’s Alex Ross, who recently completed his sophomore season at Davidson College in Charlotte, attracted national headlines within the golf industry, shooting a sensational 57 late Thursday afternoon to match the lowest score ever shot in competition.
Because of impending thunderstorms predicted for last weekend, tournament officials elected to have the field play both the second and third rounds Thursday, with the final round moved up from Saturday to Friday.
The Dogwood was almost completed without a weather stoppage Friday, but play was halted for almost an hour late in the afternoon with only three groups left on the course. Mancheno, who was in the final group, was tied for the lead at 20-under par with Memphis State’s Isaiah Jackson, who was in the clubhouse after a final round 63.
Mancheno two-putted for par from long range on the 17th and got up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 18th to break the tie, but his victory was overshadowed by the amazing feat of Ross the day before.
When he teed off to begin his third round Thursday afternoon, Ross was simply hoping to make the cut. After opening with a 75 and shooting a 73 in the second round Thursday morning, Ross was hoping just to make the cut, a tall order considering he needed to shoot 9-under 63, one shot off the tournament record, to make the cut on the number.
Ross casually asked a tournament official what was the course record before he teed and then went out and shattered it. Webb Simpson shot 60 in a practice round for the Dogwood prior to joining the PGA Tour and winning the U.S. Open.
Beginning his round on the par-4 10th, Ross chipped in for birdie, and followed with consecutive birdies on holes 11, 12 and 13. He reached the par-5 14th in two and holed his eagle putt, and followed with another birdie at the 15th.
At that point, Ross was 7-under after six holes, and took driver out of his bag for his tee shot on the short, par-4 16th. The dogleg left measures 352 yards, but can be driven by big hitters willing to launch their tee shots over trees at the corner of the dogleg and carry a creek just in front of the green.
Ross had driven the green and made eagle in his round Thursday morning, and repeated the feat in the afternoon, although he did not make his eagle putt. He followed with his only par of the nine on the long, par-3 17th, but eagled the par-5 18th to complete his first nine holes in 9-under 27.
A birdie at the par-4 first hole got him to 10-under after 10 before only his second par of the day at the 11th. After three more birdies at holes 3, 4 and 5, Ross was a staggering 13-under after 14 holes with two easily reachable par 5s to play.
Ross settled for par on the short but testy par-3 sixth hole, but gave himself an excellent eagle opportunity on the seventh. Although he missed the putt, his birdie got him to 14-under. After two putts from a considerable distance for par on the difficult eighth, he carded his 13th and final birdie of the day at the par-5 ninth with little daylight left to complete his historic round.
The only other recorded 57 in tournament competition was shot by Bobby Wyatt in the Alabama state junior championship prior to enjoying a successful college career as part of Alabama’s back-to-back NCAA Championship teams in 2013 and ’14.
Although there was only one media member from a national outlet (AmateurGolf.com) there to witness the 57 by Ross, word spread of his feat and he was contacted that night by the Golf Channel and the Charlotte Observer.
Ross did not have much of a reaction for the AmateurGolf.com reporter, but by the time he was interviewed by reporters from the Golf Channel and the Charlotte newspaper, he had a little more to say.
“I can’t comprehend what’s going on,” he said to the Golf Channel. “I’m still kind of in shock. This is by far my best accomplishment. Not even close.”
Considering his play of late, especially the first two rounds of the Dogwood, Ross told the Charlotte Observer that the 57 was unexpected.
“My game hasn’t been producing the results I’ve been looking for the past few months.”
Ross did manage to give the AmateurGolf.com reporter a look into his mindset during the 57.
“I’d say after I made that eagle putt (to go 7-under after six), that was when I kind of knew something was up.”
Ross, who attended Atlanta’s Pace Academy, made national golf news and was spotlighted in his college town’s newspaper, but his feat was all but ignored locally. After writing stories about the defending champion (who missed the cut), an ex-NFL quarterback turned broadcaster (who withdrew Thursday morning) and a hockey referee from Canada following the first round, the Atlanta Junior-Constitution had no one at Druid Hills on Thursday and barely mentioned the 57 in its wrap-up story on the tournament.
Although Ross was not happy with his game before the 57, he enjoyed a successful sophomore season at Davidson, earning first team all-Atlantic 10 honors. He started all of the team’s 11 tournaments in 2018-19 and recorded four top-10 finishes, including a tie for second in an event in Dayton. His scoring average for the season was 73, about 1 ½ strokes lower than his freshman season, when he was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year.
Ross has twice finished as runner-up in prominent GSGA events, both at Athens Country Club. He was second in 2016 in the Junior Championship and in last year’s GSGA Championship.
Even with the 57, Ross did not crack the top 10 in the final Dogwood standings, finishing in a tie for 11th at 13-under 275 after a final round 70. He had a modest three birdies in the final round, with his lone bogey coming on the 14th, where he had made an eagle the day before. He did record a birdie at the 16th, playing the hole in 5-under for four rounds.
Mancheno shot 69-68-65-65 to finish at 21-under, going bogey-free the final day to edge out Jackson. Mancheno is a two-year starter for Auburn, and was one of the country’s top freshmen in 2017-18. He followed with a strong start to his sophomore season before struggling late in the spring. He had three finishes of sixth or better last fall and won a tournament in Opelika hosted by Auburn early in the spring schedule this past season.
Jackson, who was not listed as part of the original field for the tournament, had scores of 69-68-68-63 to finish one shot behind Mancheno. He jumped into contention midway through the final round, going 7-under on a 6-hole stretch beginning at the seventh that included an eagle at the ninth. But he failed to birdie either of the back nine par 5s and made bogey at the 17th after a birdie at 15 got him to 21-under.
Jacob Solomon, Mancheno’s teammate at Auburn, was third at 271, shooting a 70 on Friday after beginning the final round tied for the lead. A double bogey on his final hole in the third round cost him the outright lead, and he also made a double on the par-4 fourth early in the final round.
Gainesville’s Spencer Ralston, who will be a senior at UGA this fall, shared the third round lead with Solomon at 201 after scores of 70-64-67. He shot 29 on the back nine during his 64 Thursday morning, but made two bogeys on his first four holes in the final round and never recovered. He closed with a 72 for a 15-under 273 total, tying for fifth with Dalton’s Carter Pendley, who will join the golf team at Clemson this fall.
Pendley moved into contention with a 64 Thursday afternoon, but played his first six holes in the final round in 2-over, finishing the day with a 70. Tying for eighth at 274 was incoming Georgia freshman Conner Creasy from Virginia.
Tying Ross for 11th at 275 was 2016 Dogwood champion Charles Huntzinger of Duluth, who recently completed his college career at Penn State. Nicolas Cassidy of Johns Creek, a freshman at Georgia, tied for 16th at 277, with Georgia Tech senior Luke Schniederjans of Powder Springs finishing T19 at 279.
Noah Norton, Schniederjans’ teammate at Georgia Tech, withdrew from the Dogwood after qualifying for the U.S. Open earlier in the week, as did Alpharetta’s Chandler Eaton, who plays his college golf et Duke. Also withdrawing before the tournament was Steven Fisk of McDonough, who ended his career at Georgia Southern by finishing second in the NCAA Championship and earning first team All-America honors.