SEA ISLAND, Ga. – Entering the final round of the Jones Cup Invitational seven strokes back of the lead, Arkansas men’s golf signee and the No. 1 player in the Junior Golf ranking Austin Connelly knew exactly what he needed.
“I told my national coach I needed to shoot a final round 68 to give myself a shot. That was my number,” said Connelly.
Well, he was right. Taking on the 7,321-yard Ocean Forest Golf Club that allowed an average score of 76.35 over the entire weekend, Connelly used six birdies to shoot a four-under 68, equaling the low round for all Jones Cup’s played since the renovation of the Rees Jones design in 2007 and earning a spot in a playoff for the second straight year.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be in the playoff because I needed some help over the final two holes after I finished,” said Connelly, who was part of an 83-player field that battled strong winds on the 52-degree final day. “I knew from past experience that when I was two back through 11 holes that I could win outright with two birdies because the finishing holes are so difficult.”
After back-to-back birdies on No. 13 and No. 14, Connelly was on pace to do exactly what he needed before a bogey on the difficult par 4 18th finished off his 68. A year removed from losing in a playoff at the Jones Cup, Connelly was presented his chance at redemption as the final four holes brought the leaders back to him with only Baylor senior Kyle Jones earning a spot in the playoff despite bogeys in two of his final four holes.
“I felt confident going into the playoff,” Connelly said. “I didn’t think about the bogey on the final hole. I had just shot the competitive course record in the final round. My golf swing felt good and I was confident because I had been there before.”
Standing on the green of the first playoff hole needing a par to extend play, Connelly was exactly where he was in 2014. This time, Connelly drilled the 20-foot putt and carried that momentum into the par 3 9th hole. After hitting an 8-iron to 15 feet on the proper tier of the small green, Connelly – for the second straight hole – stepped up and drooped the putt to win the Jones Cup Invitational and exemption to the PGA Tour’s 2015 McGladrey Classic.
“It was an amazing feeling when that putt went it,” said Connelly. It didn’t hit me right away that I had won. To be honest, I forgot about the PGA Tour exemption until I saw Davis Love at the awards presentation.”
Connelly may have forgotten about the PGA Tour exemption, but when he returns to Sea Island, Ga., for the McGladrey Classic in October, he certainly won’t forget how he got there.