Interview with 2017 SCGA Amateur Champion Gregg Jones after his victory at the Florence Country Club.
It has been a few years since Gregg Jones has been in the spotlight on a golf course. The former Clemson All-American was a starter on the Tiger’s 2003 NCAA Championship team.
He got a little bit of the same feeling he had helping the Tigers win the national title playing in the SCGA Amateur championship on his home course with a large gathering of members cheering him on.
“It was fun. It reminded me of the NCAA’s,” said Jones. “There were a lot of folks out watching that too,” he recalled.
Fourteen years later Jones was lifting another trophy. He won the state title by two shots which was the same margin of victory his Tiger team had over Oklahoma State back in 2003.
“I haven’t played in a four-day event or an individual event in a long time. I was feeling it a little today and it showed with some of my shots,” he said.
Jones started the final round tied with Parks Price of Longs, SC at 9-under par.
The two leaders did not have any breathing room as future Wofford golfer Ryan Marter of Columbia was a shot back and Carolinas Amateur champion RJ Keur was two shots off the lead.
Marter showed that he was not going away when his approach shot on the first hole went in for an eagle. Jones birdied the hole and the two were tied for the first of five times during the round.
Jones was hoping he could play the final round the same way he plays an an average round with his friends at the club, but a double bogey on the third hole ended that idea.
“I got up and down from 70 yards and that was huge. It could have been a triple. I can tell you that Gregg Jones 15 years ago would have tanked it, but I’m more mature and I hung in there,” said Jones.
The maturity was important as an up and down front nine left Jones, Marter and Kuer all at 8-under par.
Starting the back nine Jones bogeyed to fall to 7-under par while Marter birdied the 10th hole to take a two shot lead.
“I’ve been playing solid and the putter got hot,” he said. “My confidence has been growing, but I just didn’t have enough on the back nine today,” said the future Terrier golfer.
Marter let the lead slip away with a pair of bogeys while Jones was able to add a birdie for the last lead change and played most of the back nine at 8-under par.
Keur was able to tie Jones with a birdie on the 14th hole, but a double bogey on number 15 put the University of Alabama-Birmingham golfer two shots back with three to play.
The difference between the three golfers on the final nine holes was putting. Jones was consistently around the hole and able to drop in some crucial par putts to stay on the lead.
“My putter bailed me out. I putted fantastically both days. It really saved me,” said Jones.
With the large following gathered around the final green, Jones pitched his third shot to within two feet of the pin to set up a final birdie to seal the championship.
“I knew I should have a chance. I knew I had been playing well leading up to this. I had high expectations, but it doesn’t always work out. What a great week, I played well and it worked out,” offered the new amateur champion.
Keur and Marter finished in a tie for second place at 6-under par.
Zack Gordon, a rising senior at Gaffney High School had the best final round score. The future Clemson golfer shot a 5-under par 65 to move up to a fourth place tie with final round co-leader Price.
Gordon struggled in the first round shooting a 74, but went 8-under par in the next three rounds.
“The first day I couldn’t keep it out of the rough,” he said. “Once I started keeping it in the fairway I was able to hit better shots to the green and make some putts,” he said.
USC Upstate golfer Matt Carter from Easley also tied for fourth by finishing at 4-under par.
Jones now has two major SCGA titles to go along with a college national team championship. Jones won the SCGA Junior Championship in 1999 and now the state amateur.
“I guess now I have to try to get the mid-am,” joked Jones.
The magic number for the field was 3-over par 283.
Golfers at 283 or lower are exempt from qualifying for next year’s state amateur.
The 2018 championship will be played at the Dataw Island Club in Beaufort.