East Tennessee State senior Trevor Hulbert birdied the 15th and 18th holes Monday to force a playoff with College of Charleston senior Logan Sowell, then birdied the first hole of sudden death to claim the fifth edition of the Jacksonville Area Golf Association (JAGA) First Coast Amateur at The Conservatory course at Hammock Beach Resort.
Hulbert overcame a first-round 76 in Saturday’s cool and very blustery conditions at the 7,081-yard Tom Watson layout with a tournament-record 65 on Sunday in calmer, warmer weather. The Orlando native closed with a 71 on Monday in similar conditions to post a three-day total of 212 (4 under).
The trophy was Hulbert’s after he chipped to two feet for par from off the green on the first extra hole and Sowell missed a five-foot putt for par.
Sowell, of Kershaw, South Carolina, shot rounds of 68-71-73. He played in the four previous First Coast Amateurs, recording top-10 finishes in all four. His nearest brush with victory came in 2019 at Hidden Hills Golf Club when champion Stephen Shepard drained a long birdie putt on the 54th hole to beat Sowell by one.
Finishing tied for third were Brett Schell (St. Augustine/Bartram Trail High School/University of Mississippi sophomore) and Sam Anderson (Stoughton, Wisconsin/University of Wisconsin senior) at 3-under 213.
Schell equaled the second-best round of the week when he shot 67 on the final day.
Anderson, who now resides in Ponte Vedra Beach and plays at TPC Sawgrass, won the St. Augustine Amateur in October. He suffered a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 12th hole on Saturday.
Three more players tied for 5th at 214, Jerry Ji (Netherlands/University of Illinois), Ty Gingerich (Russiaville, Indiana/University of Cincinnati) and Juan Iturra (Argentina), who is the assistant golf coach at Flagler College.
Moses Compaan of Jacksonville, who earned a tournament exemption by winning the recent First Coast Junior Amateur, represented the North Florida Junior Golf Tour in strong fashion with his T-17 finish (72-74-73-219).
Two-time First Coast Amateur champion (2018, 2020) Cole Bradley finished T-31 (223).
Hulbert inherited his golf genes from his father Mike, who also played golf for the Buccaneers (1980 graduate) and went on to become a mainstay on the PGA TOUR from 1985 into the early 2000s, claiming three TOUR titles along the way.
Sowell was the first- and second-round leader, by two shots both days. Despite a shaky start to his final round (bogey, birdie, bogey, bogey), the 21-year-old righted the ship making 10 pars and three birdies through 16, before bogeying the par-3 17th.
Top finishers in the JAGA First Coast Amateur receive World Amateur Golf Ranking points for the fourth year.
The average index for the 96 contestants was +2.3.
Players from 21 states and 30 colleges participated and 14 countries were represented. The College of Charleston topped the field with 12 current or committed players in Palm Coast, followed by Purdue with eight, East Tennessee State with seven and Miami of Ohio with four.
With The Conservatory hosting the First Coast Amateur for the second year, interest among players grew again this year in spite of the coronavirus situation. The waiting list grew to 65 names vs. 36 last year.
In addition to Hammock Beach Resort, the tournament was supported by the Palm Coast and Flagler Beaches tourism group. They hosted Monday’s Awards Luncheon in addition to supporting the accommodation needs of players and family members in the run up to the event.
“We thank the many players who came from near and far to compete in the 2021 JAGA First Coast Amateur,” said co-chairmen John Milton and Jeff Adams. "Our goal is to provide an opportunity for elite amateur players to compete at a venue that will provide a strong test of their skills. We feel we have found exactly that in The Conservatory at Hammock Beach. Player response has been phenomenal the last two years. We look forward to growing the event’s reputation and stature in the years ahead with our partners Hammock Beach Resort and Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches tourism development group.”
The First Coast Amateur was sponsored and conducted by JAGA, which annually promotes Jacksonville’s top-level amateur competitions and has since 1954. It is the only JAGA-run event that is promoted nationally and features multi-state and multi-national participants.
Complete tournament results and other information can be found at www.jaxareagolf.org.