David Lawrence flirted with danger before regaining his poise to win the Gosling’s International Invitational at the second attempt at a blustery Belmont Hills yesterday.
The American two-putted for par on the final hole to finish at one-under-par 69 which left him two shots clear of nearest rival Henry Smart, of England, at seven under par, 204.
“This is probably the best tournament win I’ve had and the most satisfying because the conditions made this week incredibly tough,” Lawrence, who led from wire to wire en route to the title, said.
“To come out on top, not only did I play good golf, but I stayed strong mentally and I worked really hard at that so to be able to do that under pressure is really special.”
Lawrence, whose final round included five birdies and four bogeys, was seemingly in full control with a comfortable three shot lead through 15 holes at three under par for the round.
However, he bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes after missing the green and failing to get up and down to save par to leave the championship wide open heading to par four, 18th.
However, the 28-year old from Moline, Illinois would not be denied glory as he stopped the bleeding when it mattered most and was virtually handed the title, and with it the $13,000 winner’s share of the purse, on a platter after Smart’s second shot found the greenside bunker and he was unable to recover.
“Henry is a great player and we had an incredible battle,” Lawrence added.
“It’s tough going against each other down the stretch but when we each shot a great shot you can see a lot of mutual respect.
“Even after I hit my second shot into 18 he came over and gave me a little fist pump which is a really cool show of sportsmanship and he’s an awesome guy. Henry played great all day.
“He chipped in for eagle first hole and I knew that it was on after that and he made great pars at 16 and 17, and I made bogey, so I was down to a one-shot lead on 18 and that’s not a tee shot you want to hit with only a one-shot lead.
“However, I was fortunate to really commit and had a great tee shot on 18 and a great second shot as well.
“As much as it is physical in golf, it’s also mentally straining and especially here with this wind on this golf course. It’s a true mental test.
“Bermuda is a really special place to me and when I come here I stay with a local family and it really feels like a second home, so to win here really means a lot to me.”
For London-based Smart, it was a case of déjŕ vu having also finished runner up at this event last year.
He was among a foursome of players who shot a three-under, 67 which included an eagle, three birdies and two bogeys. But it still wasn’t enough to get the job done.
“Obviously I’d love to have won but it didn’t really matter to me because I come here for fun,” Smart said.
“I had my mom in the cart and she never comes to any tournaments with me, so having her with me was so awesome.”
American Herbie Aikens, who also fired a three-under 67, which included five birdies and three bogeys, won the amateur division and rounded off the top three in the overall field after finishing at even par, 211.
Damian Palanyandi was second in the amateur division and the top local player overall.
He completed the event, reduced to 54 holes after Tuesday’s second round at Port Royal was cancelled due to strong gales, tied for 15th at eleven over par, 222.
Palanyandi found the going tough yesterday, carding three bogeys, three double bogeys which were slightly offset by three birdies to close with a six over par, 76.
“It just wasn’t my day,” he said. “I lost three balls on the front nine, so I was just trying to survive at that point.”
Camiko Smith was the top local professional after also finishing tied for 15th at eleven over par.
P.H. Horgan, a three-times winner of the event, won the senior professional division and was tied for fourth overall at one over par, 212.
The American started the final round three shots off the lead but was unable to reel in the leader.
“I was in good position where I felt like I had a chance to win this week but it just didn’t go my way,” Horgan said.
“It was tough out there and this is the hardest, shortest course in the world and with this wind, it’s diabolical.”
Bermuda’s Allan Richardson won the senior amateur division by two shots over American rival Chris Jones.