By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Chase Blaich headed into the final round of the Emerald Coast Golf Tournament at TP Country Club with a three-shot lead and a stomach full of butterflies.
Entering Thursday’s final round, Blaich had yet to secure a EGCT title despite having some previous success — two top-three finishes — in recent tournaments.
Paired with David Miller and Will Dottley, both of whom have won multiple Emerald Coast Tournaments, Blaich had one goal in mind as he teed off for his last 18 holes.
“I didn’t want to beat myself,” Blaich said. “I knew I had a lead and that the two guys behind me were really good golfers. So I just tried to play a good, solid round of golf.”
The Florida native went above and beyond his goal, firing a 4-under round of 68 — tied for the second-lowest round of the day — to capture his first-career ECGT title. He finished the tournament with a three-day score of 203.
He did so by holding off a relentless duo in Dottley and Miller, whom finished second and tied for third, respectively.
Dottley (68, 207) started the day four back of the lead before trimming the deficit to just two strokes after 13 holes. However, a Dottley birdie on the par 5 14th was trumped by an eagle from Blaich, extending the eventual champ’s lead back to three entering the final four holes.
From there, Blaich was able to coast to a victory, punctuating his round and his tournament with a birdie on the final hole en route to a four-shot victory.
“I hit it solid all day,” Blaich said. “Toward the end, though, it got a little shaky just being in the lead and never having won before.”
Blaich attributed his fine play over the 54-hole tournament to his putting and the ability to find the short grass with his driver.
“I putted extremely well all three days,” he said. “The greens here are awesome and roll so well. And I drove it in the fairway, which was key because the rough was really rough.”
Miller (71, 209) was able to keep his chances for a third title this season high through his first nine holes. However, a couple of bogeys combined with pars on the scoreable par 5s led to a less-than-stellar back nine.
“I played solid, but I just hit a few bad shots toward the end,” Miller said of his round. “After that, it was pretty much inevitable. This was a good course, though. It tests your game very well and makes you hit every club in your bag.”
Zach Sucher (67, 209), Patrick Drake (68, 211), Blaise Wilson (71, 214), Britt Pavelonis (70, 214), Kyle Sapp (67, 215) and Jordan Anderton (68, 216) rounded out the top 10.
With his victory, Blaich is hoping to continue his climb up through the EGCT, which has parlayed several of its former golfers, including Bubba Watson, Boo Weekly and Heath Slocum to PGA Tour stardom. Watson won the 2012 Masters, while Weekly and Slocum are both multiple event winners.
“This win will certainly help moving forward,” Blaich said. “It gets the monkey off my back for sure. Hopefully this will start a fire in me for the rest of the year. We’ll see what happens.”
This year’s tournament marks the second time the ECGT has trekked through Cullman during its summer schedule. With the praise TP’s course and facilities have recieved from the players the past three days, Drake is hoping for bigger and better things in the years to come.
“I thought everything went great,” said Drake, the director of golf and club pro at TP. “I’m excited about this tournament. We want to keep building and building and make this bigger. I hope we can get 10 or 15 more golfers here next year.”
ECGT director Geno Celano reitirated Drake’s passion, citing the Tour’s appreciation for the event and future plans to make it more benefical to the community.
“We love coming here,” Celano said. “They do a great job, the course is in fabulous shape, and the players love it. It’s our goal to grow it. Next year, we want to find a charity in Cullman to help somebody out, help the community and really grow this thing into something big.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.