Keller Harper led the Furman Intercollegiate from start to finish, but there were a lot of twists and turns to the story during the 54 hole event played on the Furman Golf Course.
Harper won the event the last time it was played in 2019. Last year’s tournament fell victim to the pandemic, so Harper had to wait a year to try to repeat as the champion.
“I had high expectations coming into the tournament,” said Harper. “I had a good game plan for the tournament, but you know there are always some weird things that happen during the week,” he said.
The defending champion, one year removed, opened his title defense with a bogey free round of 5-under par 66.
He shared the lead with George Mason freshman Colin Slater.
“I hit good shots when I needed to, drove the ball well, made some putts and it took care of itself,” he said.
Harper helped the Paladins finish the first round with a four-shot lead over Wofford.
In the second round some of the weird stuff started to happen. After starting with three birdies on the front to stretch his lead Harper carded four bogeys in six holes.
Wofford was able to take the lead and Harper’s competitors closed in on him.
The round was suspended for a little over an hour because of bad weather and when Harper and the rest of the Paladins got back on the course they produced a couple of lightening strikes of their own.
Harper got back on track to birdie two of his final four holes.
“Coming out after the delay I thought I needed to birdie 15 and 17. I liked the way they were set up, Those two birdies got me back into the 60s for the round and extended my lead,” he said.
It also erased the Terrier’s club house lead and set the stage for the shot of the tournament.
Freshman Mac Scott knocked in an 87 yard pitch shot from the 18th fairway for an eagle 2. It gave the Paladins the lead after 36 holes.
‘That was a huge shot for Mac,” said Furman coach Matt Davidson. “I thought it gave us a lot of momentum and we started the final round OK, but then we struggled just before the lightening delay,” he said.
Tournament play was halted for the second time during the weekend.
When the Paladins returned after the delay they would need a total team effort to pull out the win.
Florida Gulf Coast took the lead from Furman on the back nine making every shot played by every golfer the possible winning shot.
Once again it was Harper who contributed to the comeback. His birdie on the par-5 15th hole put some distance between himself and his closest rivals and also helped the team shrink the gap with FGC.
“The birdie put me two up and I was able to be playing 18 a little easier,” said Harper.
The two-time SoCon Player of the Year had the individual title wrapped up, but because of the shotgun start some of his teammates were still battling FGC for the team title and it was close.
The Paladins pulled out the win to finish two shots in front of the Eagles.
“That was about as close as a college tournament could get. Two teams tied with two players and one hole left. That was exciting and we got lucky by a shot or two,” said the Furman coach.
The Paladins shot a 1-over par 853 total for the two shot team win over Florida Gulf Coast.
Chattanooga had the best round of the day to move up to third with Wofford finishing fourth.
Harper finished with a 1-over par 72 and a 207 total for a 3-shot win over Jon Hopkins of FGC.
Wofford’s Ryan Marter shot the best round of the day carding a 5-under par 66 to finish in a third place tie with Chattanooga’s Alex Cobb.
The win by Harper is his second this year and fourth in his Furman career.
“My process has been good for me mentally, which has been the most important thing for me. I’ve done a good job with that and it has let my game unfold in a positive way,” said the two-time champion.
The tournament began in 1970 and has a distinguished list of champions.
Curtis Strange, Jay Haas, David Duval, Matt Kuchar and Furman’s own Brad Faxon.
The win for the Furman team was the first in their own tournament since 2004 and only the third time the Paladins have won their own tournament.
Hear from two-time Furman Intercollegiate winner Keller Harper.