AIKEN — Nicholas Reach’s mother credits the weather. Whatever it is, Aiken County brings out the best in her son’s golf game.
Reach, who won the inaugural Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in 2011 in Graniteville, won his first regional amateur event Saturday, winning the Palmetto Amateur in sudden death.
“I don’t know, there is something about the air here,” said Reach’s mother, Brigitte, who caddied for her son this week.
Reach has lost in Aiken County, but just barely. In his debut in the Palmetto Amateur in 2011, he lost in a sudden-death playoff. He didn’t play here last year because he attended his sister’s high school graduation in Moscow, Pa.
The University of Georgia golfer won the playoff this time, against former Alabama golfer Scott Strohmeyer, who also had a runner-up history in this tournament.
Strohmeyer, a senior who helped Alabama win the NCAA Championship a week ago today, has now finished as a runner-up three times here, including last year. He won’t make it four, though. Strohmeyer plans to turn pro in the late summer.
Reach, who just completed his sophomore year in Athens, closed with 2-under-par 68 at Palmetto Golf Club. He opened with 71-66.
“This is my first big amateur win,” he said. “It’s a really good start for me in my first event of the summer.”
Strohmeyer birdied the final hole of regulation for 69 to be the only golfer in the starting field of 99 to shoot in the 60s each round (he opened with 69-67).
Reach and Strohmeyer finished regulation at 5-under 205 for the event, which was reduced to 54 holes when Friday’s round was washed out.
After both players bogeyed the first hole of sudden death – the par-3 16th – Reach rolled in a15-footer for birdie on No. 17 after Strohmeyer missed his 20-foot birdie try.
Reach’s play on the second nine in the final two rounds won the tournament for him. He shot 4-under 32 in the
second round and 33 in the final round.
“Coming down the stretch on the back nine that last two rounds I had really good back nines,” Reach said. “There are some birdie holes on the back nine and I capitalized on them.”
Some advice from his mother, who caddies for him in every amateur event that doesn’t require players to use “course caddies,” also helped.
“My emotions sometimes get too high, like today I got really quick on the back nine and she calmed me down a little bit,” Reach said.
That happened just before Reach teed off on the 18th hole.
At the time, Strohmeyer was making bogey on No. 17, giving Reach a one-shot lead.
“I told him he needed to take a deep breath and relax and not let his nerves get in the way,” Brigitte Reach said. “He needed to stay focused and concentrate.”
Reach parred the short-ish. par-4 18th hole, but Strohmeyer then birdied it, as Reach expected.
Strohmeyer hit his tee shot in the right greenside bunker on No. 18, then nearly holed that out for eagle. The tap-in birdie sent him and Reach into the playoff.
Reach thought he’s lost the playoff after he mishit his chip on the first playoff hole. Strohmeyer had a 10-footer for par for the win but missed it.
“I definitely thought he was going to make that putt,” Reach said. “Luckily he missed it and I had another opportunity and I capitalized on it.”
Augusta’s Greyson Sigg was the top local finisher. Sigg, who will join Reach on the Georgia golf team in the fall, tied for ninth place after rounds of 69-68-72.