Our 91st New Year’s Invitational tournament wound up Sunday, January 8th. 128 contestants started on Thursday morning, the 5th, enjoying great scoring conditions for the event’s first 2 days. Peyton Wilhoit, a sophomore at the University of Southern Illinois, led the first round with 65 and followed up with a 68 Friday for a 133 total, 11 under par, good for a two- stroke lead. In all, 58 subpar rounds were recorded the first 2 days in the championship division. Friday’s 33 rounds under par established a record for the event.
The weather deteriorated as temperatures dropped considerably overnight Friday. Saturday’s 3rd round began in a blowing drizzle as temperatures continued to plummet. University of Missouri junior Hayden Buckley, who had opened with rounds of 68 and 69, persevered through the weather to shoot a solid 71 and take a one stroke lead over 36-hole leader Wilhoit and Harrison Shih, a 2016 graduate of Columbia University who shot the day’s low round of 70. In 4th place was Joseph Pagdin, a just-turned 15-year-old from Orlando, whose rounds of 68-69-74 put him 3 shots off the pace.
The senior division, contested from our middle tees, concluded on Saturday. Jimmy Jones, from Tampa and the father of our 2016 NYI champion Jimmy Jr., had opened with a pair of 70’s giving himself a one stroke lead. Saturday’s weather also took its toll on the senior leaders as Jones prevailed by one shot, shooting 77 on Saturday for a winning 217 total.
Sunday’s play began with temperatures in the high 30’s and a 20 mph wind. By the end of the first nine it became clear that the weather would prevent any significant charge from players behind the leading foursome. After nine holes, Hayden Buckley maintained a two-stroke lead.
Things tightened through 13 holes. Wilhoit and Buckley were tied, with Shih one shot behind and Pagdin trailing by two. A buried lie in the right bunker on number 14 proved to be Pagdin’s undoing and Shih dropped off the pace after his pushed tee shot on 15 found a right-side creek. At the 16th tee, Buckley maintained a one-shot lead over Wilhoit. Buckley’s eight- footer for birdie followed by Wilhoit’s miss from four feet increased the margin to two which became final as both competitors parred 17 and 18. Wilhoit finished second at 284 and Shih tied for 3rd with Middle Tennessee State’s Chip Thomas at 286. The mid-am group within the championship division was won by 34-year-old Darrin Goldstein who shot a fine 71 the final day for a 291 total. Hayden Buckley’s 282 total was hard-fought and is a tribute to his perseverance in the face of very trying conditions.
Once again, all credit to golf professional Terry Decker and his staff for a well-run event and to greens superintendent Ryan Franklin and his crew for maintaining good tournament conditions.