A calm and collected Gray withstood three weather stoppages and a battling Scott Strohmeyer to win the Palmetto Amateur by five strokes Sunday.
“On a day like today you need to be even-keeled, because if you’re up and down with the weather delays, you can get worn out pretty easily,” said Gray, whose previous best finish at Palmetto was 16th last year. “I’m proud of myself for staying in it all day.”
The Campbell University and Florence, S.C., product shot 1-under-par 69 to defeat Strohmeyer, but despite the five-stroke margin, the outcome was unknown after 16 holes. Gray bogeyed No. 11 and Strohmeyer birdied, putting the two in a tie at 4-under.
The two remained tied through No. 16, as both players bogeyed No. 15 and parred the other four holes. After Strohmeyer left his approach shot short and in the greenside bunker on No. 17, Gray stepped to his ball knowing he had an opening.
“I was in between yardage, but I had some adrenaline going so I figured I would hit a hard 7 iron and it should get there,” Gray said. “I hit exactly the shot I wanted to.”
Gray stuck his approach to five feet from the pin, and after Strohmeyer bogeyed, Gray sank the birdie for a clinching two-stroke lead. He would go on to birdie No. 18 while Strohmeyer double-bogeyed for the five-stroke win.
“Whether I ran out of gas or had poor swings, I don’t know,” said Strohmeyer, a redshirt senior at Alabama and a runner-up at Palmetto in 2009. “It was frustrating, but it would have been more so if (Gray) hadn’t beaten me outright. He played a great round.”
The field was forced to play in a steady rain throughout the day, resulting in three delays that averaged 30 minutes in length. At one point, the final group was delayed on consecutive holes on the back nine.
Alabama golfer Tom Lovelady carded a final-round 70 to finish in third at 1-over. Kansas State’s Ben Juffer produced the low round of the day at 65 to finish fourth at 2-over.
Georgia Southern’s Scott Wolfes, who entered the final round in second place at two shots behind Gray, had six bogeys to finish tied for fifth at 3-over with Louisiana State’s Curtis Thompson, who carded a final-round 67.