Florida Defends Southeastern Challenge Title
Team Florida held off a hard charging Georgia team to successfully defend the Southeastern Challenge Match trophy in the 14th version of this biennial tri-state match featuring Alabama, Florida and Georgia at Cuscowilla on Lake Oconee in Eatonton, Georgia on Saturday and Sunday, October 19th and 20th.
Georgia jumped out to a quick lead in the Saturday morning four-ball matches with four victories in the nine matches. Alabama answered with two victories and a halved match while Florida managed to do the same. Florida's victories were recorded by Thad Hudgens of Longwood and Jeronimo Esteve of Windermere with a 2 up victory over Georgia and by Nick Gilliam of Gainesville (pictured right) and Michael Smith of Jacksonville who registered a 3 and 2 win over Alabama. Don Bell of Port Orange and Doug Snoap added a much needed half point when they halved their match with Alabama. The morning four-ball match totals stood at Georgia 4; Florida 2½ and Alabama 2½.
In the Saturday afternoon alternate shot format of foursomes/three-ball matches, Team Florida came alive logging 9 points to Georgia's 5½ and Alabama's 3½. Once again led by the duos of Hudgens and Esteve winning 2 and 1 over Georgia and 5 and 4 over Alabama and Gilliam and Smith logging wins of 2 and 1 over Georgia and 4 and 3 over Alabama, every Florida pair contributed points to the total in the afternoon addition. Jimmy Jones of Tampa and Gordon Marshall of Sarasota carded victories of 1 up over Georgia and a halved match with Alabama despite a hole in one on the 16th hole by Tom Jungkind of Alabama. Dan Debra of Lutz and Don Whittemore of Temple Terrace also notched a 1 up victory over Georgia and a halved match with Alabama. Don Bell and Doug Snoap added another 1½ points with a 2 and 1 win over Georgia and a halved match with Alabama as well. Doug LaCrosse of Tampa and Rick Woulfe added a ½ point when they halved their match with Alabama.
Sunday featured three-ball matches as the teams woke to a chilly 46º start. Low temperatures did not hold back Team Florida from a quick start as Rick Woulfe logged a 6 and 5 victory over Alabama and a 3 and 2 victory over Doug Hanzel of Georgia; the reigning US Senior Amateur Champion. Doug Lacrosse added a 2 and 1 victory over Alabama to add to the total. Jimmy Jones added two clutch come from behind points with wins of 2 and 1 over Alabama on 1 up over Georgia as he birdied 14, 15 and 17 on the way in to cap the Senior Division scoring.
In the Mid-Amateurs, Jeronimo Esteve and Nick Gilliam continued their stellar play in capturing the two more points each to go undefeated and garner the most possible points available in the matches. Esteve had wins of 4 and 2 over Georgia and 3 and 2 over Alabama while Gilliam posted a 2 and 1 win over Georgia and a 3 and 2 win over Alabama. Don Bell added 1½ more points with wins of 3 and 2 over Alabama and a halved match with Georgia. Thad Hudgens added a crucial come from behind 1 up win over Georgia to give Team Florida a ½ point lead over Gerogia with one match left on the course. Dan Debra had earlier closed out Alabama with a 6 and 5 win. His match headed down the final hole with a one up lead needing to hold off Georgia for the win. Debra's clutch approach shot found the green on the 483 yard finishing hole where a two putt sealed the victory for Team Florida. Georgia gained a half point in its match with Alabama but it was too little too late as Team Florida prevailed by one point in one of the most closely contested matches in Southeastern Challenge Match history. The final tally was Florida 25, Georgia 24 and Alabama 14. Click here for full results.
The Southeastern Challenge Match is a biennial tri-state match featuring 12 man amateur teams from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Team are selected by their state golf association by varying criteria including points lists and performance in other state and national events. Day one features morning four-ball (better-ball of partners) matches and afternoon three-ball/foursomes (alternate shot) matches; day two is morning three ball matches.