However, it was Lee Knox of Augusta who won the event after holding off Dalton’s David Noll, Jr. by one stroke. Knox entered the final round with a five stroke lead over Noll. Fortunately for Knox, the 2010 champion, he needed every bit of that advantage by the time the tournament ended.
Knox, who carded a 73 and finished at 6-under-par 282, avoided a furious charge from Noll and bested the defending champion to claim his second Georgia Amateur title in three seasons. Noll, a two-time Georgia Amateur winner, began the round tied for fourth at 2-under 214, but fired his second straight 3-under 69 Sunday to close the gap and concluded the event as the runner-up at 5-under 283.
Joining Yowell and Garretson in third was Dunwoody’s Matt Russell who shot 2-over Sunday to fall back from second. Chris Waters of Athens, who tied for sixth, was the only other golfer to break par for the tournament at 1-under 287.
Garretson, a rising sophomore at South Alabama, entered the final round in third place at 3-under and couldn’t gain ground on the leaders following his even-par 72 round. Paired in the final group with Knox and Russell, Garretson double-bogeyed the par-5 No. 4 hole and battled back over his final 14 holes to move into the top five for the tournament.
“It was pretty cool playing in the final group and actually having a big gallery follow us,” Garretson said. “It was sort of nerve-wracking in the beginning, but you kind of get used to it. It’s the first time it’s ever been like this for me, so it was a good experience.
“I was hitting the ball really well (Sunday). I made a few stupid mental errors at the beginning, but I came back and fought and made a few putts coming in to salvage even par. It was a good day.
“I think this experience has helped me improve. I had never really been in this kind of situation before, but now I have and I’ve learned how to deal with it. Just play my own game and don’t worry about it. It was fun.”
Yowell managed to improve in each of his rounds, shooting 73-71-71-70 to move up the leaderboard. He was tied for sixth entering the final round and made birdies at Nos. 8 and 10 to finish 2-under.
“This was awesome,” said Yowell who was paried with Noll and Weeks in the second-to-last group of the day. “I was so excited the whole time, but actually kept my nerves calm which was good. I hit the ball really well (Sunday), but struggled on the greens.
“My drives were right down the middle and my irons were right on the greens and I put shots within 15 feet of the hole, but I could not make a putt. I was bogey-free with two birdies and 16 pars which was really frustrating, but this experience was really fun.”
Mark Strickland tied for 13th overall at 5-over 293. He carded 3-over 75 for his final round to earn a top-15 standing which automatically qualifies him for next year’s Georgia Amateur which will be held at his home club Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw.
“(Sunday) was a little bit disappointing,” Strickland said, “but I hit it good all week. I just didn’t make the putts I should have that would have kept me in the hunt all week.
“I hit the ball great. In fact, I hit the ball the best I have all year. So, it’s something good to take away for my next tournament.”
Knowing that the Amateur was going to be held at Pinetree next season, Strickland acknowledged that he was nervous Sunday. He entered the final round tied for 11th with five other golfers.
“I just wanted the free pass with a top 15 finish,” he said. “I’ve been exempt every year since 2003, so I did’t want to have to go through qualifying.”
Marietta residents Matthew Hayes, Tom Price, Jr. and Tommy Caswell, Jr. will have to qualify next year after placing outside the top 15 and finishing 10-or-more strokes over par. Chris Hall and Christian Raynor, both of Kennesaw, and former Harrison golfer Patrick Garrett will also have to qualify.
Rising Kennesaw State sophomore Jimmy Beck and former Owl Chase Wilson each finished tied for 11th at 4-over, while rising sophomore Austin Vick (7-over) and rising junior Jonathan Klotz (12-over) tied for 21st and 40th, respectively.