Oct. 2, 2012
CHOUDRANT, La. - Although he didn't know it at the time, Louisiana Tech junior Travis Wilmore was four shots off the lead with only eight holes to play during Tuesday's final round of the 2012 Jim Rivers Intercollegiate held at Squire Creek Country Club.
It didn't matter. Wilmore shot a final round 68 to finish the 54-hole event at 10-under-par 206 and capture the individual title out of a field of 75 golfers.
Wilmore's first collegiate championship didn't come easy as the Alexandria native had to overcome a stretch that saw him bogey No. 14, 15 and 16 before righting the ship.
"That is a hard stretch on this course," said Wilmore, who began the final round on hole No. 8 with the shotgun start format. "I knew the next stretch (there were some birdie opportunities). I tried to stay patient."
His patience paid off as Wilmore birdied No. 17, 1, 2, 3 and 6 to overcome Central Arkansas' Pep Angles, who finished at nine-under-par. The 206 total was the lowest by an individual champion in the event since its inception in 2004 (the previous tournament low was 207 by Nevada's Taylor Coffman in 2008).
"He played phenomenal today," said Tech head coach Jeff Parks. "He didn't get off to the best of starts. He cruised along and stayed around par. He overcame some bogeys and when he made the turn, he went crazy. It was a great stretch of golf. He had to make par on No. 7 to win the event. That hole was playing tough today. I'm extremely excited for him."
According to Parks, Wilmore's maturation process mentally is what allowed the Alexandria native to overcome the adversity he faced during the two-day event.
"The mental part of the game is the biggest thing Travis has worked so hard on," Parks said. "A couple of years ago he would get frustrated with himself. He is a very, very talented player. He has simply learned how to handle the adversity of the game of golf."
Wilmore recorded three straight rounds in red numbers. And if not for a ruling late during Monday's opening round which "penalized" him a stroke, Wilmore would have recorded three straight rounds in the 60s at one of the most challenging courses in the college game.
"Two years ago, he would have shot an 85 the next round if that had happened to him," Parks said. "Now, he accepted it and kept rolling."
And rolling is just what Wilmore did. He rolled putt after putt after putt into the hole down the stretch for birdie after birdie after birdie.
"My putting was the difference," Wilmore said. "I had been hitting the ball well in (our last tournament in) Hattiesburg and this week, but I just putted so much better this week. You have to hole putts to make birdies out here. It all comes down to keeping the ball in play off the tee and rolling the rock.
"I birdied 17 and almost birdied 18. I birdied 1, 2 and 3. I nearly birdied 4. I hit it within five feet and missed it. I missed a six-footer on No. 6 for another birdie."
Wilmore's individual title marks the second straight one captured by a LA Tech golfer after freshman teammate Victor Lange won the Sam Hall Intercollegiate hosted by Southern Mississippi two weeks ago.
"It feels great," Wilmore said. "I couldn't have asked for a better place to do it."
Entering the day, the Bulldogs were tied for sixth place and were nine strokes behind the clubhouse leader as Parks and Co. faced the almost impossible task of passing six teams to capture the team title.
However, with just a few holes left in Tuesday's final round, LA Tech had moved into first place by a stroke over Central Arkansas. However, the team title would rim out of the cup as a couple of late triple bogeys on the par 4, No. 7 were too much to overcome as the Bulldogs finished in third place behind both UCA and Southern Miss.
"All in all it was a great day," Parks said. "It's a lot better finishing towards the top, giving it a run and competing. The team made a great run at the title, but just fell a little short. We had a tough couple of holes late today and a tough stretch midway through yesterday's first round. That was the difference."
Senior Sam Forgan finished tied for 13th overall with a three-round total of 219 (76-72-71) followed by Ben Robinson (75-72-75=222, T23rd), Lange (77-77-75=229, T42nd) and Chandler Vilcheck (77-84-75=236, T56h). Jack Lempke (72-76-73=221, T18th) and Brandon Newton (82-81-81=244, T65th) both competed as individuals for the Bulldogs.
Tech returns to action this weekend when it travels to Baton Rouge to compete in the David Toms Invitational hosted by LSU.