Mize enjoys the chase, wins Georgia Amateur title

mlough@macon.comJuly 13, 2014 

The triple-bogey giveth, and the triple-bogey taketh away. Just ask Robert Mize and Stan Gann Jr.

Mize had a win in clear sight, with a four-stroke lead and two holes to play, only to be gobbled up by a triple on No. 17 at Idle Hour Club.

That gave third-round leader Gann, playing in the group behind Mize, a chance, with only a stroke separating the two as Mize moved on to No. 18 and Gann started No. 17.

But Gann matched Mize’s triple, shutting the door as quickly as it was opened, and Mize won the Georgia Amateur Championship on Sunday.

Mize managed a 3-under-par 67 for the day, adding up to a 5-under 275 for the tournament. There was a four-way tie for second with Will Chandler, Carter Collins, Trey Rule and Kelby Burton, all at 279.

Gann bogeyed No. 18 and finished tied with Brad Davis and Matt Mierzejewski for sixth at 280.

Mize began the day tied for third, four back of Gann.

“It’s fun to chase,” Mize said. “It was easier to chase than it was (playing) with the lead, I’ll tell you that much.”

Mize was cruising along on an afternoon of pars and birdies until No. 17, which he bogeyed Thursday, double-bogeyed Friday and parred Saturday.

He found the hazard Friday and Sunday. Mize had a better angle but more distance to deal with Friday compared to Sunday.

“Given the situation, I was like, ‘Don’t be dumb, lay it up,’ ” Mize said. “If I’m 4 over, yeah, I’m probably taking dead aim and giving it a whack with a 5-wood.”

He was “scared out of my mind” on the fairway 87 yards away. Mize was then long and left, and to the fringe, less than 10 feet for par. But the putt lipped out, to Mize’s amazement. He finished the hole and quickly erased its memory.

“It actually might have been a good thing,” Mize said. “It kind of put everything in perspective. I was walking down 18, and it’s like, ‘It’s just a game.’ It almost relaxed me a little bit.”

He made par on No. 18 and was at the scorer’s table while Gann was having his own similar problems on No. 17.

“I didn’t know how I stood; I was like, ‘Pretend you have to make this,” Mize said of his final putt on No. 18.

The 17th hole was fairly difficult all weekend. It was clearly the toughest to par and had 18 percent of the tournament’s bogeys and 27 percent of the double-bogeys, as well as 29 percent of the “others.”

Mize and Gann certainly felt that Sunday.

The good start Gann had Friday that launched him into contention and to the lead Saturday was gone quickly Sunday. After two birdies and a par on No. 1, he bogeyed it. Two holes later, another. Two holes later, another. Mize countered with birdies and pars, taking the lead for good on No. 7 as the chase began for the others in the hunt.

Three strokes separated the top five players at the turn. Most of the contenders had fared well at least once on the back nine during the tournament, so it was easy to assume some sort of shootout awaited.

Instead, there was no drama for the first seven holes as Mize stayed steady, his run of four straight birdies -- unmatched by any of the contenders in the tournament -- ending on No. 11 with a par.

Gann got to within three after a birdie on No. 12, but Mize extended his lead to 5 with a par on No. 14 and was 8 under overall for three holes until No. 17.

The win was quite a mood adjustment for Mize after a rough performance at the Dogwood Invitational last month, won by Rule. Mize opened with a 66 at that tournament, one shot off the lead, and followed with a 73 and 77 to miss the cut.

“It was so frustrating to me,” Mize said. “I had to give up golf for a couple days. I didn’t want to break anything. I didn’t want to break anything on my body.”

Now all he’s breaking is into smiles, albeit weary ones.

He has an 8:12 a.m. tee time Monday morning in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier at Burningtree Country Club in Decatur, Alabama.

“I’ve got a little bit of a drive yet,” he said Sunday. “I’m already looking forward to Tuesday.”

A pleasant surprise

Mize left the club Saturday in contention, but his parents were still not planning to come over for the final round.

Yet there was Larry Mize, the 1987 Masters winner and 2005 inductee to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and Bonnie Mize on the hill at No. 18 for the trophy presentation after all.

"We came back from church and we saw how he made those birdies in a row," Larry said. "We got to thinking we would love to be there and congratulate him at the end."

There was the sweating out of the final two holes, thanks to Robert's triple-bogey on No. 17, which Stan Gann Jr. repeated to seal it for Mize.

That the son bounced back for a nice par after the debacle on No. 17 made the old man happy.

"Seventeen is such a good and tough hole, but stuff like that happens," Larry said. "I think it says a lot after doing that, he played 18 so well. Right on the green, underneath the hole, almost a birdie. Just a great comeback."

Burton frustrated

After Saturday's round, second-round leader Kelby Burton was pretty mad with how he played. He had two back-nine bogeys en route to a 71 and loss of the lead, although he was still in second.

Sunday was a mixed bag, more bad than good.

"I definitely hit better (Sunday)," the Kennesaw State junior said. "I scored worse."

Burton finished in a four-way tie for second, four shots back and 1 under par.

He overcame a double-bogey on No. 6 and got a shot back to slide into second, three back of Mize after No. 10. Bogeys on Nos. 11 and 14 took care of contention down the stretch.

A three-putt from about 6 feet out on No. 6 was among the painful holes that hampered an otherwise respectable round.

"Not a lot went right," he said. "I made mistakes when I couldn't. Back to the drawing board. Learn from it."

Quotable

"I see the pin is in the back and I'm thinking a hard 6. My rangefinder says 197 (yards). I smacked it a few times because I thought it was wrong." -- Robert Mize on preparing for No. 18 on Sunday after his triple bogey on 17. He made par on the hole to seal the win.

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