COLUMBUS, Ga. - Russell Henley of Macon fired his second-straight 67 to finish at 16-under-par 268 and capture his second-straight Georgia Amateur title by eight strokes over David Noll Jr. of Dalton. The 88th annual Championship took place at Country Club of Columbus, July 9-12.
In winning his second title, Henley broke his own Georgia Amateur scoring record of 270 that he set last year on his home course, Idle Hour Club in Macon. He also becomes the first champion to claim back-to-back titles in 15 years. Carter Mize of Columbus won the 1993 Amateur at The Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta and in 1994 at The Savannah Golf Club. Only eight golfers in the history of the Championship have won consecutive titles.
The 2007 Georgia Amateur champion, Harris English of Thomasville, finished third at 7-under-par 277 with a final-round 73. Mark Strickland of Woodstock and Jeff Knox of Augusta, who played in the final pairing with Henley and English, tied for fourth at 281. William Mitchell of Roswell and first-round leader Michael Green of Augusta shared sixth position at 2-under 282. Mitchell vaulted up the standings by carding 68-68 on the weekend after opening with 70-76.
Wright Waddell of Columbus was the highest local finisher, tying for eighth at 1-under 283 with Michael Hicks of Newnan and Joe Young of Cochran.
Henley began the day with a three-stroke advantage over English, his close friend and University of Georgia teammate. English cut the margin to two early with a birdie on the 548-yard opening hole. Henley, however, responded on the next par 5, the 533-yard fourth, with an 18-foot eagle putt to push his lead back to four strokes. English came back with a long birdie putt on the par-3 fifth hole, but on the sixth Henley stuck his approach to 10 feet and made his birdie putt. English meanwhile, couldn't get up and down from a greenside bunker, resulting in a two-shot swing on that hole and five-stroke margin in Henley's favor on the leader board.
Henley's lead remained five strokes through 10 holes. On the treacherous par-4 11th, English's approach barely reached the green but rolled back into the creek fronting the hole, and he wound up with a 6 on his scorecard. Meanwhile, Henley, who had bogeyed No. 11 in each of the first three rounds of the tournament, stuck his approach to three feet for a birdie and, all of a sudden, held an eight-stroke lead.
Henley, who felt that he "could win it" after the birdie at 11, credited a higher level of confidence with his strong play throughout the Championship, which included four-straight rounds in the 60s (69-65-67-67).
"I was just trusting myself on every shot," he said. "I had that confidence to just step up and hit it, and that was my mindset throughout the tournament."
Noll, who played in the last group with English and Henley during the final round of the 2008 Amateur, was trying to stay in contention, playing one group ahead this year. He began the day at 7-under and held that pace through the turn. Birdies on holes 11 and 13 vaulted him past English for sole possession of second place. Despite a bogey at 17, he held on to that spot with a 1-under 70 for the day and an 8-under 276 for the Championship. It marks the fifth straight Amateur in which Noll has finished among the top six.
Just 10 players finished under par on the 6,515-yard, par-71layout at Country Club of Columbus, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2009.
The Championship format was 72 holes of stroke play over four days. The field was cut to the low 70 and ties after the second round, with the cut line falling at 9-over 151 and 71 players advancing to the weekend.
The Georgia Amateur Championship is conducted by the Georgia State Golf Association and brings together 156 of the state's best male amateur golfers for the prestigious state title first won by Bobby Jones in 1916.