Auburn Sophomore Birdies Second Playoff Hole to Defeat 2017 Champion
In Dramatic Finish at Desert Mountain
Auburn sophomore Wells Padgett birdied the second playoff hole Saturday afternoon to win the 103rd Southwestern Amateur Golf Tournament over defending champion Jino Sohn, a senior at Arizona State University, in one of the tournament’s most dramatic finishes.
Padgett (66-68-66-68-268) and Sohn (67-68-67-66-268) finished regulation play deadlocked at 12-under-par 268 after participating in a three-way duel for most of the day with University of Wisconsin senior Jordan Hahn (66-67-67-70-270) who started the day as the co-leader with Padgett at 10 under par 200.
Sean Carlon (70-67-69-65-271) of Albuquerque, N.M. finished fourth, three shots behind the leaders.
Sohn – who started the day two shots behind the co-leaders — had a great opportunity to successfully defend his 2017 Southwestern title on the first playoff hole, when he reached the 511-yard, par 5 18th in two. Facing a 70-foot eagle putt, he left the ball five feet below the hole, and then missed his birdie putt to extend the playoff.
Playing the 18th for the third time within a 30-minute span, Padgett seized the moment by hitting a perfect drive and reaching the green from 220 yards with a four iron. His 70-foot eagle putt came up four inches short for an easy birdie, while Sohn hit his second shot into the desert requiring a layup that resulted in a two-putt par.
Padgett, a member of the 2018 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team, said the victory “is certainly the biggest individual title of my career,” but not as big as Auburn winning this year’s SEC championship in which he made the winning putt.
Reflecting on his four-iron second shot on the second playoff hole, the Wichita, Kan. resident said, “I thought about laying up, but then I told myself that I didn’t fly here to finish second. I wanted to stay aggressive all day long and thought I needed to shoot 67 today to win the tournament. As it turned out, that was exactly the score I needed, but I came up one short and had to go to the playoff.”
Padgett, Sohn and Hahn staged an epic battle over the first 14 holes with the lead exchanging hands several times. Hahn – who birdied the first hole and then rolled off 13 consecutive pars – fell out of contention when he attempted to reach the 548-yard, par 5 15th hole in two.
“I had 235 yards to the pin, and hit a five iron just a little skinny,” Hahn said. “It was right on line, but in the end that probably ended my chances, as Jino and Wells were playing awfully well.”
The field of 88 players played under cloudy skies all day with a persistent drizzle most of the morning and several showers. The second hole of the playoff was played in a heavy downpour.
With the win, Padgett joins some illustrious past Southwestern Amateur champions, including Mark O’Meara (1980), Corey Pavin (1981), Tom Pernice, Jr. (1982), and current PGA Tour stars Ryan Palmer (1999), Nick Watney (2002), Kevin Dougherty (2012) and J.T. Poston (2013).
Now in its 103RD year, the Southwestern Amateur has been played at a variety of sites throughout Arizona, California, Texas, Nevada and New Mexico on annual basis with the exception of a three-year hiatus from 1943-45 because of World War II. On four occasions the event has been played in Mexico.
Since its founding in 1915 as a regional match play invitational tournament for private golf course members to compete against the nation’s best amateur players, the Southwestern Amateur has developed a stellar reputation as a high-quality competition for the nation’s top players. The tournament was changed to a stroke play event in 1966 to meet the growing demands of the tournament and the increased popularity of the game created during the Palmer-Nicklaus era.
For the past six years, the Southwestern Amateur has been played at the Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale on one of Desert Mountain’s six Jack Nicklaus-designed signature golf courses.
Complete results for the 2018 tournament can be found at www.swga.net.