It took two holes longer than expected, but Trey Rule won the Dogwood Invitational with a birdie on the second hole of sudden death Saturday at Druid Hills Golf Club. He finished 21 under, in a tie with Zach Seabolt.
Rule, an Eatonton native who plays at Mercer, seemingly had the tournament won with a two-stroke lead at 22 under and his ball just a few feet away from the flag on the final hole of regulation. Playing partner Seabolt, who was chasing him the final four holes, was in the rough off the green, 30 yards away.
“I honestly didn’t think it would go to a playoff,” Rule said, but things weren’t over.
Seabolt’s chip in for eagle on No. 18 skirted a few inches past the hole as patrons watching from the clubhouse politely said, “Go in.”
“When I hit it I thought it had a chance,” said Seabolt, a native of Raleigh, N.C., who plays at Winthrop. He tapped in the next putt for birdie to fall to 21 under.
Rule, using a long putter and a putting stroke with his right hand on top of the club and his left hand far down the club, subsequently left his birdie putt two feet short. It’s a stroke he has used for the past 1 1/2 years because he said he was really bad with a traditional putter and stroke.
“Got a little shaky,” Rule said after watching Seabolt’s chip. “I felt like I hit it with the putter cover on.”
Suddenly, things were interesting again.
Just needing a par to take the tournament, Rule’s next putt lipped out for a bogey, dropping him to 21 under and sending the Dogwood to a playoff for the third time in 20 years.
Both players parred the first playoff hole, No. 1, a 467-yard par 4.
Drama returned on the second hole, the same one where the drama began: the par-5, 579-yard No. 18.
Seabolt hooked his drive left into the trees, where it landed in the rough yards away from reaching the beginning of the fairway.
“I don’t like that tee shot,” Seabolt said, referencing the trees that line the left side of the fairway and are in the golfer’s vision as he looks up the fairway toward the clubhouse.
Rule slammed his drive up the left side, where it came to rest inches from the fairway.
Seabolt’s next shot again went left, landing in the rough 210 yards away from the green and with trees blocking his line of sight. Attempting to punch out, Seabolt instead topped his third shot, sending it 30 yards closer, but still in the rough and still with trees in the way.
Meanwhile, Rule’s second shot flew up the fairway, landing in a similar spot as his second shot when he played the hole earlier in the day.
Seabolt’s fourth rolled into the rough a few yards away from the green and in a similar spot from where he almost chipped in.
Rule again hit another good chip with his third shot, putting the ball a few feet away from the flag. Seabolt’s fifth landed several feet below the pin. His bogey putt rolled several feet past the hole.
Rule didn’t miss with his putt this time, rolling in the birdie to take the Dogwood.
“It was nice to have a 4-footer again on 18 to get back at it a little bit,” Rule said.