July 18, 2015 4:51:03 PM
Ben Wait - [email protected]
WEST POINT - There's no doubt that Taylor Funk knows what it takes to win on the golf course.
He watched his father, Fred, win eight times on the PGA Tour including the 2005 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. The older Funk has also won nine times on the Champions Tour including three major championships.
"I know what it takes and how to get it done," said the younger Funk, who is a rising sophomore at Texas.
He proved it this week at Old Waverly Golf Club, as he won the 109th Southern Amateur Championship. The Ponte Vedra, Florida, native shot a 2-under in the final round Saturday to post an 11-under, 273 to capture the tournament crown.
"It means a lot. It's the 109th tournament, so there's a lot of history and a lot of good names on that trophy," Funk said. "It's a world-class field, 170 guys or so, and to beat that many of them, it feels good."
Funk held a share of the lead after 36 holes, but found himself one behind Jarryd Felton going into the last day. Felton birdied the final two holes Friday to take the one-shot lead.
Funk knew he had a good chance of winning on the final day and he received some advice from his father Friday night.
"He said to just go out there and have good composure," Funk said. "That's been our key word recently. He said he needs to work on it himself, but if you have good composure, everything will fall into place."
Funk, Felton and Ben Suarez were all at 10-under as they made the turn, but Funk birdied two of the first three holes on the back nine to give him a two-shot lead at 12-under.
He knew where Felton stood all day and got some updates on other golfers throughout the day.
"To be in that position and finally pull one out was fun," said Funk, whose best finish at Texas last season was 33rd. "Gives me a lot of confidence in my game and what I've been working on with Cameron McCormick."
He double bogeyed the 14th hole to drop back into a four-way tie for the lead at 10-under. Funk shook it off and birdied the par-5 15th and par-4 16th to stretch his lead back to two. He hacked out of the rough on 15 and landed the ball one foot from the hole for an easy tap-in birdie.
"I hit a terrible shot there on 14," Funk said. "I just hooked a 5-wood and really one of the best clubs in my bag. I don't normally do that, so I just knew it was one bad swing and I still was playing great golf. It was big to get those birdies. Get a little cushion coming in because I knew 18 was playing tough."
Funk went par, bogey on the final two holes to cap off his victory.
Suarez and Taylor Hancock finished second at 10-under. Hancock tied for the best round on the course on the final day with a 4-under, 67. He made an up and down on the 18th hole to post the clubhouse lead at the time.
"I got off to a good start (Friday). I birdied five of my first six, so I knew there were a bunch of birdies out there. I just had to stay patient, and I finally got some putts to fall," said Hancock, who will begin his senior season at the University of North Florida this fall. "I just kind of really didn't think about it. I just tried to make some birdies."
Hancock birdied three holes on the front nine and four on the back nine, but he had three bogeys on the day.
Matt NeSmith and newly crowned NCAA champion and No. 2-ranked amateur in the world Bryson DeChambeau from SMU finished in a tie for fourth at 9-under.
Mississippi State golfers Ben Wood and Jackson Dick also competed. Wood finished at 4-under, while Dick shot a 1-over on the final day to finish at 7-over.
The low Mississippians were Riley Davis of Hattiesburg and Braden Thornberry of Olive Branch. Davis shot a 3-under in the final round to finish at 5-under. Thornberry finished at 1-under.
Ben Wait is a sports writer for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.