There was plenty of drama during Saturday's final round of the Golden Isles Invitational, and not just about who would win. There was some question to if the round would be completed as a thunderstorm barreled north from Kingsland toward Brunswick Country Club as the final groups wrapped up play.
The storm steered away from the club, and a familiar champion was crowned, even though it was his first Golden Isles Invitational win.
Thomas Hogan, son of Brunswick Country Club general manager Dan Hogan, rallied to win with a 2-under 70 in the final round, finishing at 9 under for a tournament and one shot ahead of Trevor Smith, who was tied for the lead with Carter Collins entering the final round.
Hogan, a rising senior at Frederica Academy, said it was an honor to win the tournament.
"I'm pretty sure Davis (Love III) won this a while ago so it's pretty cool to put my name next to his on this trophy," Hogan said.
The victory caps an impressive summer turnaround for Hogan. In early June at the same course, Hogan finished towards the bottom of the pack at the Davis Love III Junior Open. His game started to round back into form at the Georgia Junior Championship before fully blooming at the Future Masters a couple of weeks ago.
Hogan won his age group and finished second overall at the Future Masters. He was second to no one this week at Brunswick Country Club. A simpler approach has helped Hogan get away from his early summer struggles.
"It was really just hit greens, take the pressure off the tee shot," Hogan said. "Instead of focusing on trying to hit the fairway, just hit the green and try to give myself birdie putts."
Hogan entered the final round trailing Smith and Collins by two shots. A fast start erased the deficit. Hogan was 4 under through his first six holes. The hot start was mitigated a bit by a couple of bogeys as he completed the front nine.
"I got off to a really hot start," Hogan said. "I made a couple of putts and was really rolling it good in the beginning."
Hogan's solid play continued on the back nine as conditions made for tough sledding on the course. The wind began to pick up in intensity as the storm drew nearer.
"I played solid on the back nine," Hogan said. "I made a couple of birdies, and the wind got real tough. It didn't take as low of a score as I thought it would (to win)."
Hogan had to play a different game after finishing up his round, the waiting game.
Smith and Collins trailed Hogan by a shot in the final group. Collins' errant tee shot led to a bogey while Smith faced about a 10-foot putt birdie putt to force a tie with Hogan. The putt slid to the left of the hole.
"I yanked it," Smith said. "I did not hit a good putt. My putting was off all day. I was just burning some edges. The thought of not making any putts was eating away at me, but I was just trying to stay positive and find a solution."
For Hogan, having to wait to see if he won was a different experience.
"You have an idea on what you have to do, but leaving it up to them, you can only do so much," Hogan said. "It was interesting that's for sure."
Smith finished the final round with a 73 to finish second at 8 under. Collins (74) and Josh Williams (73) finished tied for third, two shots behind Hogan, who was the only player in the Championship A flight below par in the final round. Jason Webster and Mark David Johnson also finished at 7 under outside of the Championship A Fight.
"It wasn't like the first two days - different tee boxes, plus I played really early the first two days so the wind wasn't really a factor," Smith said. "Playing
in this wind was a little different, but I live down here and play in this stuff all the time so it shouldn't be any different. The pressure's there, you just have to power through it and try to get the best score you can get."
For Smith, this could have been his last chance to win the Golden Isles Invitational. The former College of Coastal Georgia golfer is planning to turn pro later this year and wanted to close out his amateur career by picking up his first win in six tries at the event.
"I was wanting to get a win before I left, but this isn't something I'm going to lose sleep over," Smith said. "It was a great tournament. It was fun, and Thomas played great. He earned it."
The Senior Division also saw a come-from-behind win. First-round leader Toshi Hirata lost the lead to Hal Johnson in the second round after a 1-over 73. Hirata rebounded Saturday with a final-round 68 to top Johnson by two shots.
Hirata finished the tournament at 8 under. Johnson was second followed by Martin Hochberg (even-par 216), Steve Horton (217) and former Golden Isles Invitational and Senior Division champion Steve Melynk.