As the final holes played out at the Baton Rouge Amateur on Sunday afternoon, all signs pointed toward a sudden-death playoff for the third consecutive year.
Scott Wilfong and Peyton McCulloch both reached the par-5 18th at Santa Maria golf course tied for the lead at 1-over-par. Playing one group behind, defending champion Scott Haynie also came to the 18th at 1-over.
Of the three, Wilfong was the only player to make birdie, and he went on to win the championship with a final round score of even par 72.
Haynie, who bogeyed the par-3 17th to drop to 1-over, missed a downhill 15-foot birdie attempt at 18. McCulloch’s drive at 18 trickled into the water hazard, and he closed with a bogey.
Dennis Brown and Daniel Schroeder were the next-closest golfers. They finished tied for fourth after each shot a 76.
“Its humbling,” said Wilfong, a 38-year-old local business owner who won the Baton Rouge amateur for the first time. “There are a lot of great golfers out here, and I didn’t consider myself to be in their league. Its nice to know my name will be on the trophy with theirs.”
Wilfong’s winning birdie at 18 came after he hit a hybrid 220 yards to the back fringe. From there, Wilfong cozied up a downhill 20-foot putt to the cup leading to a tap-in birdie.
Wilfong hit 14 greens in regulation, and had chances to take control on the front nine. He had six birdie putts of 15 feet or less, but made just one. His 10-foot birdie at the par-3 5th helped him make the turn at even par.
Trailing McCulloch for much of the round, Wilfong bogeyed the par 4 12th. He missed the green at 14, 15 and 16, but saved par each time. The par at 16 came after he blasted out of a sand trap to 8 feet.
“I had a couple of putts go in, and then there was the huge par putt on 16, which was really the round,” Wilfong said. “That was the difference right there.”
McCulloch birdied holes 3 and 7, and held the lead for most of the front nine. At times, his driving left him awkward approaches, including sidehill lies at 4 and 9, and another from a fairway bunker at 8. He hit the green each time and made par.
The lead began to unravel on the back nine after McCulloch found another fairway bunker off the tee at 10. His approach was short of the green, and he went on to make bogey.
At 12, McCulloch’s approach sailed over the green, and he eventually took bogey. Then, at 13, he pulled his drive into a water hazard leading to another dropped shot.
“I didn’t hit the ball as well on the back nine,” said McCulloch, a 19-year-old who just completed his freshman season playing for Nicholls State. “I putted just as well, but I kind of gave it away at the end.”
McCulloch’s drive at 18 was long and straight but finished too close to the banks of the lake that borders the right side of the fairway. The ball rolled onto the rocky bank, and McCulloch’s attempt to punch the ball out caused it to ricochet back into the water.
The 60-year-old Haynie was defending his seventh amateur championship and was close to adding another. He made birdie at the par-5 15th to move to even par.
At 16, he missed the green but got up and down to save par, but at 17 he was unable to repeat the task. He missed a 6-foot par putt, and went to the 18th hole needing a birdie.
“I bogeyed three of the four par 3s,” Haynie said of his round. “I played all right, but Scott just beat me. I tried my best. It was a lot of fun though.”
Baton Rouge Amateur results
Final scores Sunday in the Baton Rouge Amateur golf championship at Santa Maria Golf Course:
Scott Haynie def. Jeremy Gautreaux, 3&1
Chad Blanchard def. Danny Nelson, 4&3
Trampus Butler def. Brek Balentine, 2 up
Daniel Schroeder def. Duane Graham, 3&2
Eric Hoffmann def. Blaine A. Patin, 1 up
Scott Wilfong def. Randy Goff, 5&3
Dennis Brown def. Cole Arseneault, 2 up
Peyton McCulloch def. Mike Drury, 7&5
Scott Wilfong, 72
Scott Haynie, 73
Peyton McCulloch, 74
Dennis Brown, 76
Daniel Schroeder, 76
Chad Blanchard, 77
Trampus Butler, 79
Eric Hoffmann, 84