Connelly clutch in Georgia Amateur victory

Connor Coffee walked off the No. 18 green Sunday, turned to his mother, Holly, and stated the truth.

 

“I just couldn’t do anything about it,” he said.

Despite posting a 5-under-par 66 in the final round of the Georgia Amateur Championship, Coffee just couldn’t catch Justin Connelly, who came through time and again down the stretch at West Lake Country Club.

Connelly, of McDonough, Ga., posted a bogey-free 65 for a two-shot victory over Coffee. The Mercer graduate recorded the lowest winning total in Georgia Amateur history, finishing at 17-under-par 267, eclipsing the previous mark (268) set by Russell Henley in 2009.

“By far, this is the coolest, biggest tournament I’ve ever played in and won,” said Connelly, who posted four rounds in the 60s. “It’s unbelievable.”

Nathan Mallonee shot 68 to finish third at 274, one shot ahead of Steven Fisk (68). Jared O’Kelley shot 70 to finish fifth at 276.

Emmanuel Kountakis of Martinez led the local contingent, closing with 68 to finish sixth at 278. Dalton Reese of Warrenton shot 69 and tied for ninth at 280, while John Engler, Jr., of Augusta tied for 11th after his final-round 70.

Connelly took a one-shot lead over Coffee after 54 holes. While 3½ inches of rain pounded West Lake on Saturday night, the 22-year-old Connelly said he tried to get his mind off of golf. Still, he only got about “two or three hours” of sleep, something that didn’t affect his play.

After a steady front nine, Connelly held a three-shot advantage over Coffee, who promptly birdied No. 10. Then, the pair got hot, trading birdies the next two holes.

Connelly still led by two when he yanked his tee shot into the left rough at the dogleg-right, par-4 15th. After hitting his second shot short of the green, he chipped up to 10 feet. Connelly pumped his right fist after his par putt dropped into the hole.

The 19-year-old Coffee wouldn’t go away, though. Down two entering the par-5 18th, he hit a 5-iron from 230 yards out just short of the green. His chip shot for eagle missed the cup by an inch. Connelly later drained a five-foot birdie putt to seal the victory.

“I knew if he made a par and I made an eagle, we would tie,” Coffee said. “I knew it was a long shot.”

Connelly added: “If that would’ve gone in, that five-footer for birdie would’ve felt like it was 30 feet.”

With rounds of 69-69-65-66, Coffee finished with the lowest score by a runner-up in the history of the Georgia Amateur. He said he was encouraged by his play in the tournament.

“I played really well,” Coffee said. “He was playing amazing. There was nothing I can do about it.”

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Georgia Amateur Championship

West Lake Country Club

Final round

Par 71

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267-Justin Connelly (69-69-64-65). 269-Connor Coffee (69-69-65-66). 274-Nathan Mallonee (69-70-67-68). 275-Steven Fisk (71-68-68-68). 276-Jared O’Kelley (67-68-71-70). 278-Emmanuel Kountakis (72-68-70-68). 279-Taylor Smith (75-74-66-65), David Mackey (72-70-72-65). 280-Chris Waters (67-74-71-68), Dalton Reese (71-68-72-69). 281-Scott Odell (69-71-72-69), John Engler, Jr. (71-67-73-70), Jacob Bayer (69-67-71-74).

Other scores of interest: 283-Jay Mundy (76-70-68-69). 285-Coleman Tidwell, Jr. (70-77-69-69). 286-Hunter Dunagan (70-71-71-74). 288-Jeff Knox (77-66-66-79). 290-States Fort (71-71-71-77). 293-Taylor Floyd (74-72-76-71), Will Rogers (66-77-72-78). 299-Graham Hill (71-76-76-76).

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