Jamie Wilson and Evan Brown wound up tied after 18 holes at Palmetto Golf Club Saturday, with a 276 total in their bid for the 44th annual Palmetto Amateur, and Wilson clinched the crown about 20 minutes later by racking up a birdie on the second hole in a sudden-death playoff.
Wilson, a member of the University of South Carolina team, shot a 68 Saturday, which tied him with Brown, who shot 66 – the day's best performance. Brown, who plays for Loyola University Maryland, had also been Friday's top performer, racking up a 62. Brown came within an inch of drilling a putt that would have sent the playoff on for at least another hole.
Morgan Deneen, a 2019 Coastal Carolina University graduate, had led the tournament from Wednesday through Friday but shot a 78 Saturday and wound up tied for 13th overall, with a total of 282.
"It was fun," Wilson said, recalling his Saturday pursuit of Deneen. "I knew I was in a good spot. It was not like I was tied for the lead and had to hold on or anything, but I was in the spot, where I knew I could make a run and give him a run for his money."
John Roy, the tournament's co-chairman, said the four-day event went "exceptionally well," and added, "It's probably one of the most diverse fields that we have had in a number of years ... As with many of the other major sports, the players seem to be getting younger and younger every year."
Roy cited the presence of one 15-year-old and one 16-year-old among this year's competitors. Geographically, the past week's competitors were from around the South as well as Pennsylvania, Arizona, Maine, Argentina, Nevada, California and Australia.
In terms of scoring, Wilson and Brown's closest neighbors were Caleb Proveaux, of Lexington (278); Judson Holiday, of Aynor (also 278); Ben Carr, of Columbus, Georgia (279); and Greyson Porter, of Clearwater, Florida (also 279).
Aiken's top competitor was South Aiken High School graduate Jake Carter, who now plays for Florida State and wound up tied for ninth, at 281. Carter was playing on his home course, where he bagged the Southern Cross title in both 2015 and 2016.
Wilson, a Mount Pleasant resident and graduate of Bishop England High School, confirmed that the Gamecocks had a strong presence among the players and spectators at the tournament. "It was awesome to come back and to play with all these people that I know here – all my friends – and to compete ... and win it in front of them."
He described himself as "very" familiar with the historic Aiken course. "I played the Southern Cross all four years of high school. I played a college event here. I've played here a few times just for fun. I've learned over the years. It's gotten a little easier, because you know what shots to hit. You know where to put it, and that's what this course takes."
He added, "It's a mind game out here. It's not about brute force off the tee – length, anything like that. It's about playing golf as it's supposed to be played."
Top sponsors of this year's tournament included Adidas, TaylorMade, Club Car, Corteva, South State, Security Federal and First Citizens.