By Chris Whitfield
With two contending golfers in the clubhouse a stroke behind him and playing partner Ryan Stachler in the shrubbery on top of the green on the par-4 18th hole, Dunwoody’s Marcus Byrd knew all he needed to do was make par.
He did just that to win the Georgia Junior Championship by a stroke Wednesday at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face.
Byrd and Stachler were tied at 1-under-par for the tournament when they teed off on the 18th. Byrd blasted his drive down the right side of the fairway and Stachler came up 25 yards short of Byrd’s drive.
Stachler pulled his approach to the top of the hill to the left of the green and it settled at the base of the shrubbery.
Byrd followed by hitting his approach to the right front of the pin.
“There was a lot of pressure taken off when (Stachler) took his shot,” Byrd said. “It changed the whole dynamic of the shot I was going to make.”
Even though Stachler recovered for a bogey — despite having to hit left-handed from underneath the shrubs — Byrd was able to two-putt for par and finish the tournament as the only player under par, recording a 1-under 215 to win the 54-hole Georgia State Golf Association tournament, which was in its 48th edition. Byrd’s closing 74 followed rounds of 70 and 71.
“It is just a huge relief to break out and win this tournament after all of the hard work that I have put in to get ready for it,” said Byrd, who will be a junior at Dunwoody High School this fall.
Stachler, whose closing 73 followed a 68 and 75, said not being exactly sure of the score hurt him on the last hole.
“I thought I was down one stroke, and I tried to finesse a shot I didn’t have to hit,” said Stachler, who is from Alpharetta. “I didn’t finish as well as I would have liked. I had a two-shot lead with five holes to play, but I didn’t do what I needed to do.”
Stachler tied with Atlanta’s Jack Larkin Jr. and Griffin’s Tye Waller for second.
Byrd and Stachler were the only players under par on the back nine Wednesday, with both at 2 under for the tournament heading to the 11th tee. Stachler birdied the par-5 12th, and a bogey by Byrd on the par-3 13th gave Stachler his two-shot lead. But Stachler had back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15, while Byrd had a bogey on 15 but sunk a birdie putt on the par-4 16th to pull even.
“I felt like if I could make that birdie putt on 16,” Byrd said, “it would put a little bit of pressure on him.”
Both players parred the 17th, with Stachler almost pulling off the shot of the day. After punching out of the rough with his second shot, his third — 85 yards from the pin — bounced twice and spun back over the hole, settling 22 feet to the left of the flag.
“My heart about broke on that shot,” Byrd said after watching Stachler’s approach from behind the green. “If he had made that happen, it would have won the tournament for him. I wouldn’t have been able to recover. As it was, it was a great shot.”
Stachler drained the par putt, and Byrd recovered from the berm behind the green for his own par to send the duo to the 18th to settle the tournament.
Already in the clubhouse at par were Larkin and Waller, two of the only four players to break par for the round. Larkin had the day’s best 18 holes with a 3-under 69, birdieing three of the final four holes. Waller was steadier throughout the day, birdieing No. 18 to finish with a 70 for the round.
The second-place trio finished three strokes ahead of Albany’s Tyler Hanson (68-76-75), who had shared the first-round lead with Stachler. Sharing sixth place at 221 were Atlanta’s Will Duma (70-76-75) and Waynesboro’s Carter Mobley (71-70-80), who finished three strokes ahead of Woodstock’s Nickolaus Budd (71-76-77). Five players shared ninth place.
Wednesday’s other par rounds came from Atlanta’s Will Chandler, who shot a 2-under 70 and finished tied for 17th overall, and Gainesville’s Lawson King, who ended with a 1-under 71 and finished tied for 30th. Last month, Chandler led Marist to the Georgia High School Association’s Class 4A state championship at Dalton Golf & Country Club, shooting a 6-under 66 to earn medalist honors.
Three players from Whitfield County competed on the final day at The Farm after surviving the 36-hole cut, which trimmed the field to 72 players. Dalton’s Allen Behr was the top finisher from that group, finishing tied with Chandler at 12-over 228 for the tournament. Behr closed with a 4-over 76, following rounds of 78 and 74.
“I compare this to the Georgia junior version of the U.S. Open,” said Behr, who will be a sophomore at Dalton High next school year. “I didn’t hit driver all week and I was just trying to keep the ball in the fairway and in good positions in the right spot. The course will give you spots, but you will get in trouble if you get greedy.
“This is definitely my best tournament, so for me it was good to get that monkey off of my back and shoot a score I was really proud of.”
Rocky Face’s Tucker Snipes finished tied for 30th at 232 after a final round 77, and Rocky Face’s Ethan Hayes was tied for 61st after a closing 84 to finish at 244.
Complete results, including player scorecards, are available at gsga.org.
• Bailey Tardy of Norcross carded a steady 1-under-par 71 during the final round at Atlanta Athletic Club to win the 34th annual Georgia Girls Championship with a 54-hole score of 6-under-par 210.
Roswell’s Rinko Mitsunaga finished in the runner-up spot two strokes back. Tardy and Mitsunaga were the only two players in the field to finish under par for the tournament, and they were also the only competitors who posted scores of par or better each round.
Tardy, who was playing on her home course, carded 13 birdies, 34 pars and seven bogeys during the three-day competition. During Wednesday’s final round, she turned in birdies on Nos. 2, 4, 9 and 10, with bogeys on Nos. 6, 11 and 12.
Mitsunaga’s scorecard included 12 birdies, 35 pars, six bogeys and one double bogey.