Allen Doyle - a former hockey defenseman with an unconventional, but effective slap-shot-style golf swing - survived a pair of closing bogeys and shot 68 Sunday, winning The Cardinal Amateur in the process.
Doyle's clutch play in the final round was all the more impressive considering that his 68 was the only score under par at The Cardinal on Sunday. With a 54-hole total of three-under-par 207, the 43-year-old Georgian became only the second non-collegiate winner in the tournament's 14-year history.Doyle's two playing partners, Greensboro's Kevin Kemp and a fellow Georgian Paul Claxton, finished tied for second. Claxton, the defending champion, closed with a 71 while Kemp, a rising Wake Forest sophomore, shot 72.
Each of the three led the tournament at some point during the afternoon. But Doyle, who will represent the United States in the prestigious Walker Cup matches next month, seized command at the 12th hole when he chipped in for his fourth birdie of the day.
At that point, Doyle stood 5-under for the tournament - two shots ahead of Claxton, who made bogey at 12, and three up on Kemp. Doyle's surprising birdie was particularly devastating to Kemp, who was hoping to make up ground there with one of his own.
``That really hurt,' admitted Kemp, who led after each of the first two rounds. ``My second shot hit the pin and bounced about five feet back toward me. He was short of the green. But then he chipped in for birdie, and I missed mine.'
Doyle was able to maintain his lead with four straight pars as neither Kemp nor Claxton could make a move. But he gave them new hope when he lipped out a five-foot par putt on the par-3 17th hole.
Claxton, who had just birdied No. 16, narrowly missed making it two in a row when his 15-footer stopped short and dead in the hole. Still, Doyle's lead now was only one with the 428-yard, 18th remaining.
``The ball got to the hole, and it looked like it rolled back,' said Claxton, who stopped walking and stared incredulously when the ball didn't fall into the cup.
Claxton and Kemp each put their drives at 18 down the right side of the fairway, just in the first cut of the rough. Doyle's drive, though, settled in the deeper grass. His second shot, a 6-iron, then landed short and right of the green.
Suddenly, both Claxton and Kemp had another chance.
``All I was trying to do was get it on the front fringe,' Doyle said. ``It came out low and hit the trees. It landed in what looked like a wash area that had grassed over. It was in there about three or four inches deep.'
Doyle then was reduced to what he called trying to ``hack it out.' He did manage to get the ball on the green and later said he was ``happy' despite the prospect of that 30-foot par putt.
``I was prepared for the playoff,' Doyle explained, anticipating the bogey that dropped him back to 3-under.
But Claxton, who had lagged his 80-foot first putt to within five, missed his par effort and Doyle avoided any extra holes. Minutes earlier, Kemp had missed a curling birdie putt that would have enabled him to force a playoff, too.
``I knew I had to make that putt,' Claxton said. ``It was a solid putt, but it seemed to kind of hit something and turn left.'
The victory capped an outstanding summer for Doyle, who owns and operates a driving range in LaGrange, Ga. He finished second in the Rice Planters, third in the Northeast and Southern amateurs and fourth at the Sunnehanna. He also made the cut in the Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour and played in the U.S. Open.
``I had played well this summer,' Doyle said. ``I'd been in contention, but I just hadn't won. It's nice to get a win under my belt - especially when you're playing a good golf course like this one. It shows that your game is in good shape.'
Doyle and Claxton both will play in the U.S. Amateur Aug. 20-25 at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. Claxton, who won the Sunnehanna earlier this summer, is still hoping to earn one of the five Walker Cup spots still up for grabs and join Doyle in Dublin, Ireland, in September.
Raleigh's Paul Simson, also bound to the U.S. Am, finished alone in fourth at 212 after shooting a 72 Sunday. Georgia Tech's David Duval, who will join Doyle at the Walker Cup, was tied for fifth at 214 with Patrick Sheehan, who plays for the University of Hartford.
Reidsville's Mike Goodes, who won the 1984 Cardinal Am, and Patrick Lee were another shot back at 216 after matching 72s. Greensboro's Larry Boswell and Sean Halloran were knotted at 216.
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