Originally created 04/29/01

South Aiken wins Southern Cross



AIKEN - After discovering he trailed by one shot, Alex Hamilton slapped his bag as he walked up the 18th hole at Palmetto Golf Club.

While South Aiken had wrapped up the team competition in the Southern Cross Invitational on Saturday, two Thoroughbreds went neck-and-neck in the individual portion. Hamilton proceeded to birdie the final hole for a final-round 3-under-par 68 while teammate Kevin Kisner bogeyed the hole.

The two-shot swing gave the South Aiken High senior medalist honors by a shot over Kisner. Both are Palmetto members.

"This is where I grew up, this is where I play my golf. This one means a lot to me. I knew I had a good chance to win if I played a good round," said Hamilton, who was 2-under for the tournament.

Kisner shot a 70 and Dane Burkhart added a 73 as South Aiken won its third straight tournament. The Thoroughbreds fired a 2-under 211 for a 1-over-par team total of 427 to win by 22 shots over Greenwood.

Last week, South Aiken overcame a 17-shot deficit in the final round and defeated Greenwood in a playoff. Two weeks earlier, the Thoroughbreds won the Trojan Invitational in Rock Hill, S.C., by 16 shots.

"That was a strong performance today," South Aiken coach Donnie Holland said. "It was actually better than yesterday and I thought yesterday's scores were pretty strong."

Hamilton was 1-under on his round through 13 holes and then he rolled in a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 14. The birdie gave Hamilton a brief one-shot lead over Kisner.

But the South Aiken junior responded with a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 15. Then Kisner knocked his tee shot on the 212-yard, par-3 16th to within three feet. After a birdie there, Kisner had a one-shot advantage.

Both players parred No. 17 and had their fates determined by the 308-yard, par-4 18th. Hamilton, playing a group ahead, hit his tee shot in the fairway and stuck a 102-yard sand wedge shot to three feet. The University of South Carolina signee drained the short putt and forced Kisner to make par for a playoff.

But Kisner found trouble off the tee, hooking a 3-iron into the trees. After hitting a fat punch shot, Kisner pitched his third shot 12 feet short of the hole.

Facing a downhill putt, Kisner appeared to hit the ball on line. But as it got closer to the hole, the ball turned right, caught the lip and stayed out. Bogey.

"I wouldn't blame it on the last hole. I just hit one bad shot and I couldn't recover," Kisner said. " I saw him make birdie and I knew I had to make par.

"He hit it great. He just hit it one less time than I did."

While he wanted to win, Hamilton admitted it was painful to watch Kisner on the final hole.

"I really hate that it had to come down this way," Hamilton said. "I'd have rather he make par and we go into a playoff. Anything other than the way it happened."

Neither player will have much time to think about the tournament as South Aiken plays in the 36-hole Region 3-AAAA Tournament on Monday in Lexington, S.C. The top two teams at the region tournament advance to the Class AAAA state tournament in two weeks.

"I think we're at the top of our game," Holland said. "It's just always nerve-wracking with everything coming down to one day. These two tournament wins in a row are nice, but it doesn't count come Monday."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.