MONDAY MORNING REWIND
Athens — Russell Henley did something Sunday that has been done only one other time in the history of the Nationwide Tour. The University of Georgia senior beat a field full of professional golfers to win the Stadion Classic at UGA golf tournament.
Henley shot a 3-under-par 68 — his third consecutive round in the 60s on the University of Georgia golf course — to best pro Troy Kelly by two strokes and take home the first-place trophy.
He did not, however, take home the $99,000 first prize. Playing as an amateur, he wasn’t eligible for it. In fact, with his 16th-place finish in the U.S. Open last year, that’s at least $213,480 in professional prize money
With the win, Henley does have 60 days to decide if he wants to join the Nationwide Tour and play under “tournament winner” status for the remainder 2011 season. To that Henley also said no thanks.
“They talk about how much money you can make playing pro golf, but I’ve never played golf to win money,” Henley told Joe Chemycz of the Nationwide Tour. “I love to play golf and I love to compete and there are a lot of amateur tournaments I want to play in.”
It’s a rarity for any amateur to win a professional event these days. Henley joins Daniel Summerhays (2007) as amateurs with Nationwide Tour wins. Rickie Fowler and Charles Howell III have logged seconds and Sergio Garcia a third as amateurs in Nationwide events.
It’s even more rare on the PGA Tour, where Phil Mickelson (1991) is the last two win as an amateur.
The fact is, Henley is simply too busy in the midst of an illustrious amateur career to turn pro. He plans to play in the Palmer Cup, Northeast Amateur, Southern Amateur, Porter Cup, Western Amateur, U.S. Amateur and Walker Cup. That will keep him from turning professional until September
“That’s actually more than I wanted to play this summer,” said the Macon native, who is slated to graduate from UGA later this week. “I’m going to stay amateur for sure.”
Henley was one of two current Bulldogs who played in the tournament on sponsor’s exemptions, which went to the two players on the team with the lowest scoring averages. Senior Harris English got the the other one also played well. He shot 4-under 280 to finish18th.
“This is a dream come true for me,” Henley said. “Just getting to play in this golf tournament was a tremendous opportunity, and to win it means the world to me. My goal is to be a professional golfer, and this reinforces to me that I can compete at the professional level.”
The good news is Henley will be able to play all the pro golf he wants after he finishes pursuing his amateur goals. His status as “tournament winner” will continue through 2012.
That’s, of course, assuming he won’t be playing on another tour.
Farmer’s slam prevents disaster
Kyle Farmer delivered the Georgia baseball team from what could have been a disastrous weekend at Auburn. The junior shortstop hit a grand-slam home run to cap a nine-run, ninth-inning rally for the Bulldogs and lift them to a 14-11 victory. Chase Davidson also smashed two home runs in the slugfest.
It was an unexpected happy ending for Georgia (25-23, 14-10 SEC), which had fallen behind 8-0 in the first inning and vulnerable to a sweep by the Tigers (25-22, 11-13). The Bulldogs dropped a 4-3 decision in 11 innings on Friday and were shutout 3-0 on Saturday as pitcher Michael Palazzone (8-2) suffered his first SEC loss of the season.
“We couldn’t put together a big inning until the ninth,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “Then, we got the right guys up those big situations. . . . This is an exciting team to be around, and this one was a lot of fun and will make the bus ride home a lot shorter.”
It was still a tough weekend and Georgia has to be sharper the rest of the way if it hopes to earn an NCAA berth. The Bulldogs, who carried an RPI of 12 into the weekend, play host to Mercer on Wednesday before heading back out on the SEC road to faceKentucky (21-27, 5-19) next weekend. After a game against Kennesaw State, they wrap up the regular season with a home series against No. 1 Vanderbilt May 19-21.
Georgia needs to finish at least three games above .500 in overall record to enter the SEC tournament without the threat of being eliminated from postseason consideration with two straight losses. The NCAA requires a better-than-.500 record for postseason consideration.
Silva Zamora advances but golf team doesn’t
Georgia’s Marta Silva Zamora posted a shot 71 in Saturday’s final round to finish ninth individually in the NCAA West Regional and qualify for the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships. But coach Kelly Hester’s squad finished 14th overall to see its season end.
Silva Zamora, the No. 1 women’s player in college golf, had 16 straight pars before a birdie at No. 17 to finish 1-under. It was her 19th par-or-better effort in 29 rounds this season.
“Marta was Marta,” Hester said. “She played the way she has all year.”