Former Georgia Open winner Samuel Del Val enjoyed the best week of his professional career, finishing in third place Sunday in the Spanish Open, a European Tour event.
Del Val, the 2010 Georgia Open champion, is a Spanish native who attended college in Georgia and has lived in the state since he graduated from Berry College a few months before his Georgia Open victory.
During his professional career, Del Val has played on every tour affiliated with PGA Tour – most recently PGA Tour China. He has made a handful of starts – all in Spain — on the European Tour, and played a few events recently on the European Challenge Tour.
Del Val, who also played in a European Tour event hosted by Sergio Garcia earlier this year, had made the cut in three of his four most recent starts on the tour before making his big splash last week.
The 32-year-old Del Val was a factor in the Spanish Open from the opening round, shooting a 4-under 67 with four consecutive birdies to end the day only two shots off the lead. He came back with a 65 the next day, including a pair of birdie binges on each nine to close within one shot of the lead in a tie for third.
Playing in the final group of the third round with co-leaders Rafa Cabrera Bello and AdriArnaus, Del Val shot a 69 to tie Cabrera Bello for second. Jon Rahm, who shot 28 on the back nine for a third round 63, broke away from the field and took a 5-stroke lead to the final round.
Del Val’s round included a few highlights late in the day on the Golf Channel broadcast, including a deft pitch shot from a difficult spot well off the par-5 14thgreen for a tap-in birdie, followed by a chip-in birdie on the par-4 16th.
For the final round, Del Val was paired with fellow Spaniards Rahm and Cabrera Bello, 5thand 38threspectively in the World Golf Rankings. Rahm came into the tournament 1413 in the OWGR but held his own with his talented playing partners. He carded three birdies on the front nine to move into outright second, but was passed late in the day by Cabrera Bello, who birdied five of the last six holes to finish solo second, five shots behind Rahm.
Del Val closed with a 68 for a 15-under 269 total, seven behind Rahm and two in back of Cabrera Bello. He was two shots clear of a three-way tie for fourth and three in front of Garcia, who tied for seventh. He collected a check for 93,900 Euros (approximately $100,000), the largest of his career and improved his world ranking by more than 750 spots to 659.
After the third round, Del Val said his week had been “an amazing experience. I don’t remember experiencing anything like it before. I haven’t hit as many quality shots as I wanted to, but it’s been good scoring. I was trying to hang on for dear life.”
Looking ahead to the final round, Del Val said, “I’m focusing on what I’m doing and having a good round and finish as high as I can. I can’t focus on what anyone else is doing.”
Del Val accomplished his goal to wrap up the best week of his golfing life since his days as a top junior and amateur player in Spain, where he won a significant number of tournaments.
Although he spoke very little English at the time, Del Val elected to come to the U.S. to attend college and play golf. Because of his limited experience with the language, he wound up at Abraham Baldwin, a small agricultural college in Tifton. After two years there, he transferred to Berry College in Rome, where he enjoyed considerable success on the course and in the classroom.
Del Val was a two-time NAIA All-American, winning eight tournaments at Berry including his conference championship both years. He also was named an NAIA Scholar Athlete after both seasons.
During his early years as a pro, Del Val won tournaments in Macon, Monroe and Augusta on the Peach State Tour, along with his 2010 Georgia Open title at Savannah Harbor, where he finished ahead of runner-up Tim O’Neal.
From 2013-16, Del Val played the new PGA Tour-sponsored LatinoAmerica Tour. He finished 20, 50 and 32 on the money list his first three seasons with a pair of runner-up finishes before winning the 2016 Argentina Classic and finishing the year fifth in earnings.
In one stretch, he had eight consecutive finishes of 16thor better including six top 10s, and continued his hot streak in Canada while the Latino America Tour took its winter break. He posted four straight finishes of 22ndor better capped by a tie for second in his final event before returning to South America.
His play on the Latino America Tour earned him a spot on the 2017 Web.com Tour, and he ended the year 76thon the money list, $126 out of the top 75 and an exempt spot on the tour the next year. He regained his status in the finals of qualifying and played the tour again in 2018, but fell outside the top 100.
Del Val played PGA Tour China for much of 2019, recording three top10s and placing 24thin the Order of Merit. Prior to his third place finish in the Spanish Open, he had three straight solid finishes on the Challenge Tour, as well as advancing to the second stage of qualifying for the 2020 European Tour.
DORI CARTER TRANSITIONING: Valdosta’s DoriCarter, the 2011 Georgia Women’s Open champion, may have played her final LPGA Tour event last weekend. Carter, a member of the LPGA Tour since 2011, has joined the staff of the women’s golf program at Louisville as an assistant coach, and has put her playing career on hold at this time.
Carter’s pro career got off to a successful start after she graduated in 2010 from Mississippi, where she twice earned Al-America honors. She won a tournament and placed 14thon the money list as a rookie on the Futures Tour, and finished 12thin the finals of LPGA qualifying to earn a spot on that tour in 2011.
She was able to get into only 10 tournaments as an LPGA rookie and spent one of her off weeks playing in the Georgia Women’s Open at Summer Grove, where she won in a playoff. She finished the year 128 on the LPGA money list and moved up to 99 and 104 the next two seasons before enjoying her best season in 2014.
Carter made 20 of 26 cuts with two top 10 finishes to end up 70thin earnings with $194,000. She tied for sixth in the North Texas Shootout in Dallas and set a course record in the Kia Classic in California, winding up in a tie for 10th.
But she has not cracked the top 100 in the five years since then, with her standing on the money list dropping each year. Carter was limited to just nine starts in 2018 and finished 144 on the money list, but regained her status in the finals of qualifying. She was able to get into 14 tournaments this year, but made only five of her first 13 cuts with a top finish of T65.
Carter took one last shot this past week in Dallas, where she has enjoyed much of her success on the LPGA Tour. She shot 68 in a Monday qualifier to get into the tournament, sharing medalist honors to earn of one two spots in the field from the qualifier.
Knowing it might be her last LPGA start, Carter shot 6-under 65 in the first round to tie for second, two off the lead. She had nine birdies on the day, including four in a row on one stretch, and rebounded from a double bogey at the 15thwith birdies at 16 and 17.
Carter did not make another birdie the next 32 holes, shooting 1-over 72 each of the next two rounds. She bogeyed her first hole in the second round and followed it with 17 straight pars. She was 3-over after 14 holes Saturday, but birdied two of her last four holes to give herself a chance for a high finish.
But with one exception this year, Carter has struggled to close out tournaments with a strong final round, and shot 77 Sunday to fall into a tie for 48th. She ended the season 154 on the money list, and if she chooses to resume her playing career, will have to return to the qualifying process.
For her career, Carter earned just over $500,000 on the LPGA Tour, with her tie for sixth in Dallas in 2014 her best-ever finish.
Duluth native Courtney Swaim Trimble was the head coach at Louisville from 2013-19, with former UGA golfer Whitney Wade Young taking over the program this season after Swaim stepped down to move to Chicago when her husband started a new job.
SHAD TUTEN WINS IN BRAZIL: Elberton native Shad Tuten, the 2016 Georgia Open champion, won a LatinoAmerica Tour event in Brazil in late September,
Tuten, in his third season on the tour, shot 21-under 263 to win by two strokes, coming from one behind after 54 holes with a final round 67. For the week, Tuten posted scores of 67-65-64-67, carding an eagle in each of his last three rounds. He locked up his victory with birdies at 15 and 16 in the final round.
In the three tournaments since the tour has resumed after its winter break, Tuten has placed 14th, first and seventh and currently stands fourth on the Order of Merit. There are five tournaments left on the 2019 schedule, and if he remains in the top five, will have status on the 2020 KF Tour.
Tuten played his college golf at Armstrong State in Savannah, and won the 2016 Georgia Open at Ford Plantation in Savannah, shooting 15-under 273 to win by three strokes.
This is Tuten’s third year on the LatinoAmerica Tour. He placed 99thand 56thin the final standings his first two seasons.