Austin Morrison makes good on mulligan to win 71st Georgia Open

ATHENS — Austin Morrison handled the final-round lead at the 71st Georgia Open a lot better Sunday than he did the last time he was in the same situation at Jennings Mill Country Club.

It was a year ago that Morrison was in third place at a Forme Tour event that would have guaranteed him status on the Korn Ferry Tour. He wound up shooting 73, finished tied for 10th and watched the rest of his season unravel.

With that experience in his back pocket, Morrison started the final round of the Georgia Open with a two-shot lead. Morrison, who lives in St. Simons Island, shot a 2-under 70 to finish at 13-under 275 and beat his buddy Ryan Elmore, who finished with a 69, of Dunwoody by two shots.

Jackson Buchanan of Dacula was low amateur, shooting a 71 to finish at 9 under, and tied for third with professional Ted Moon of Lilburn, whose final-round 66 included a hole-in-one.

“This is the state championship, so to win this is a really big deal,” Morrison said. “Then, even more so for me, I played the same golf course last year and had a chance to win a Korn Ferry card. So to come back here where things went south for me and pick up a win and pick up a championship, it’s a big deal for me.”

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Morrison could have lost his composure on the seventh hole, a 469-yard par-4 whose green is guarded by water. Morrison’s approach was wet, and he wound up with a double bogey. Elmore, his cart-mate, was on the back of the green and in position to take the lead when his long downhill putt came up well short and led to a bogey. That left the two leaders tied at 10 under.

“I really needed to get two shots of that but only got one,” said Elmore, who played at Berry College before turning pro.

Morrison responded by sticking his shot at the eighth hole to about 5 feet and made birdie. He made another birdie at the 10th to restore his two-shot lead. Elmore made a nice birdie putt on the par-3 12th to cut the margin to one but never got any closer.

“I hit a really sloppy shot at No. 7 to fall back into a tie, and from then on, I just kind of did everything I wanted to,” Morrison said. “I kept the ball in front of me and made everything I looked at and made it look easy, but it wasn’t.”

When they came to 18, Morrison’s lead was three shots. It mattered little that he blew his approach over the green and made a bogey.

Morrison is a native of North Carolina who played college golf at William & Mary. He hooked up with PGA instructor Jared Zak, who works at the Sea Island Golf Performance Center, and moved to the Golden Isles to be near his coach – and dozens of other aspiring professionals.

Buchanan, who went to Buford High School, is a late bloomer who plays at the University of Illinois. He was on 59 watch on Saturday when he was 9 under through 11 holes but wound up shooting 66.

“Today was completely different than Saturday,” Buchanan said. “Every bounce that the ball took, I felt like it was going the wrong direction. If I needed it to bounce left, it would bounce right. I played fine. I’ve hit the ball well, so there’s not much I can complain about.”

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey