The Georgia PGA held its annual tournament at Berkeley Hills Country Club in July, but the final results more resembled a Georgia State intra-squad match.
Griffin’s Davin White, a recently graduated Georgia State golfer, won a head-to-head duel with Nathan Mallonee, his teammate the past two seasons. Berkeley Hills serves as the Panthers’ home course, and the two used their knowledge of the layout to carve it up.
Mallonee, a rising junior from Lexington, took the first round lead with a 65 to lead White and Big Canoe head pro Joe Finemore by two shots.
White matched Mallonee’s 65 in the second round to finish with a 12-under 132 total, with Mallonee second at 133 after a closing 68. Tim Weinhart, an instructor at the Standard Club, earned low pro honors, shooting 66 in the final round to place third at 10-under 134. Finemore finished fourth at 138.
It was the third straight year an amateur won the tournament. Gus Wagoner was the first amateur winner in 2013, scoring his victory while he was in the process of transferring from Armstrong Atlantic to Georgia State. Like White, Wagoner completed his eligibility after the 2014-15 season.
The top four finishers all drew afternoon pairings the first day, with Mallonee and Finemore in the same threesome. They were paired again the next day along with White, with Weinhart playing in the group in front of them. No other player shot better than 140 for the 36-hole event.
Mallonee began his first round on the 10th tee and birdied four of his first six holes, then added three more in succession at 18, 1 and 2 after suffering his lone bogey of the day on the 16th. An eighth birdie at the short, par-4 sixth gave him a 65 and the lead at the end of the day.
White turned in 35 after bogeys at 8 and 9, but an eagle on the par-5 10th and two more birdies got him into the last group for the final round. Finemore eagled the risk/reward par-5 third in the first round, helping to offset two bogeys as he also shot 67, earning his spot in the final pairing the next day with a birdie at the ninth.
Mallonee began the final round with birdies on the first two holes after a pair of precise approach shots to expand his lead to four. But his scorecard recorded pars on his next 14 holes, while playing partner White played those holes in 6-under to take a 2-shot lead. Mallonee curled in a birdie putt at the 17th to break his par streak, but White answered from closer range, and chipped close for par at the 18th to hold off his teammate, who closed out his round with a second straight birdie.
White said his intent at the start of the round was to “try and put some pressure on Nathan early, but it happened the other way around.”
Having played Berkeley Hills countless times during his career at Georgia State, White had a definite idea of how he planned to play the course, which typically allows for aggressive play, but has several holes that present risks along with rewards.
While Mallonee played the par-5 third conservatively and made par, White went for the green in two, but his second shot flew long into the hazard beyond the green. He saved par with a deft pitch shot and began cutting into Mallonee’s 4-stroke lead with a birdie at the par-3 fourth.
The key hole of the day was the seventh, the longest of Berkeley Hills’ par 5s.
From 268 yards, White launched a big 3-wood that landed on the green and left him about 20 feet for eagle. He rolled in the putt to close within one of Mallonee, who drove left and had to play up the 13th fairway.
“That was a big momentum swing,” White said. “I knew I needed to hit a really good 3-wood.”
White pulled even with a birdie at the 10th after clipping a tree with his tee shot, leaving a longer third than he is accustomed to on the easily reachable par 5. He took the lead with a birdie on the short par-3 11th, while Mallonee continued to struggle to take advantage of his birdie opportunities.
On the 13th, the longest and most difficult of Berkeley Hills’ par 4s, White got what he referred to as “some cart path love,” with his tee shot down the right side taking two big bounces off asphalt down the hill and bouncing back towards the fairway before winding up about 50 yards short of the 455-yard hole. White pitched close and holed his slippery downhill birdie putt to go ahead by two.
When asked if he viewed his competition with Mallonee as a match play-type situation, White replied, “not really. I just wanted to keep a clear mind.”
White said he did not have a particularly good tournament track record at Berkeley Hills, which hosted an annual college tournament for the Panthers.
“It was good to finally play some solid rounds on my home course for college. It was my first win in a while.”
White said he plans on playing as an amateur for the rest of the year and turn pro in early 2016 with the hopes of qualifying for the PGA LatinoAmerica Tour.
Mallonee was able to take his narrow loss in stride.
“I played really well both days. I didn’t make any bogeys today. But Davin played some phenomenal golf and I missed some putts I could have made.”
Losing to someone he described as “one of my best friends” took a little sting out of his close call, Mallonee said. “This hurts a little bit less.”
As the low pro in the tournament, Weinhart came away with first place money ($1500) and points, as he continues his effort to win Georgia PGA Player of the Year honors for an eighth time. He and Gregg Wolff have both earned that honor seven times. Weinhart is off to a strong start this year, also earning first place points in the Rivermont Championship, where he tied for second behind Travis Nance, who has not yet achieved his Class A PGA status to become eligible for Player of the Year.
Getting first place money and points “is a nice bonus,” Weinhart said. “But a win is a win. I got beat by two guys.”
Weinhart birdied five of his last eight holes for a 68 in the opening round, and enjoyed another fast finish the next day with birdies at 15, 17 and 18.
“I played well,” he said. “They played better. I’m very happy how I golfed both days.”
For the first time in some 15 years, Weinhart missed out on a trip to the PGA Professional National Championship, the No. 1 event for the country’s club professionals. Weinhart has been an annual participant in the tournament since 2000, but did not qualify this year.
“It was odd. Very odd,” Weinhart said of not playing in the recent PNC in Philadelphia, with his goal of making it back to the PGA PNC in 2016 right up there with his effort to win Player of the Year for the eighth time.
Finemore turned in his second straight strong showing, following up a tie for seventh in the Atlanta Open. He shot himself out of contention early in the final round with a pair of bogeys, but was 3-under over his last 15 holes for a 71.
Tying for fifth at 140 was pro David Ward of White Columns and amateur Ted Moon, who recently completed his college career at Belmont. Ward closed with a 67 highlighted by eight birdies, with Moon among the first day leaders at 68. After a rough first nine the final day, he carded four birdies coming in.
Georgia PGA pros Mark Anderson of Brunswick Country Club, Brian Dixon of Fox Creek and Chris Nicol of Georgia Golf Center tied for seventh at 141, Anderson shot a final round 68 while Nicol, a former winner of the event, and Dixon both opened with 68s.
Five players tied for 10th at 142, including Berkeley Hills member Hector Cora. Also finishing at 142 were Highland Country Club head pro Todd Ormsby, Chris Cartwright of West Pines, Brett Whitehead of Capital City Club and Champions Tour member James Mason. Ormsby closed with a 69, Cora and Cartwright both shot 70 the final day and Mason had an up-and-down 72 that included four straight birdies from holes 9 to 12.