Colton Blagrove had never entered the Greater Slidell Golf Championship until his father mentioned it a few weeks ago.
But his decision to play this year was an exercise in victory.
Blagrove, an 18-year old Jesuit graduate who now plays for Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, won the 37th annual GSGC on Sunday at Royal Golf Club. He totaled a three-day score of 220 to claim the tournament victory in a tournament played at three different courses — Pinewood Country Club on Friday, Oak Harbor Golf and Country Club on Saturday, and Royal Golf Club for the finale.
Each year, the tournament is played by the Slidell-area’s best golfers on three different courses over 54 holes.
Blagrove trailed two-time champion Robbie Rhodes by two strokes heading into Sunday’s final round. But when the talented duo reached the 18th hole at Royal, Rhodes bogeyed, and Blagrove saved par. That was enough to give him a one-stroke victory.
Rhodes shot 221 overall, and Dustin Deffes shot 224 over the three-day event.
“I had never really been around to play this tournament; always on vacation or playing another tournament,” Blagrove said. “When I came into the round, I knew I was two strokes behind Robbie. I had to take it a step at a time. I chipped in for a birdie on number one, then I really just told myself to keep the pedal down. I made two bogeys (on 12 and 13), but I was able to keep it together.”
Rhodes, a two-time tournament champion, eagled the 16th, after double-bogey on 15, which forced a tie between him and Blagrove. They both parred 17, before the 18th hole became the deciding factor.
Blagrove knocked in his putt from the right side of the green. Rhodes’ effort was a bit short, which forced him to a tap-in for bogey.
“I felt really good,” Rhodes said. “I really didn’t know until maybe the 18th fairway whether I was up a stroke, down a stroke, whether we were tied. I was just trying to play as best I could, and I just didn’t have enough to do it.”
The story of the day, early at least, was from perennial contender Kevin Rea. After shooting 6-under through 13 holes, he triple bogeyed No. 14 and fell behind the leaders.
Dan Willwerth, another familiar name in the tournament, won the senior flight with a three-day gross of 212. Alan Black shot 224 in the men’s senior field to finish second.
Willwerth finished second in the championship flight several times over the past couple decades.
“I would have loved to have played in the championship flight again today,” said Willwerth, 61. “I was hitting the ball really well today. I’ve been playing well all week. I feel like I could have competed today with those guys. But it’s fine. It’s just awesome to be out there and play with people you haven’t seen all year. It’s nice to see that.”