Brandt Garon lost the lead early in Sunday’s final round of the Baton Rouge Open and could have wilted under the pressure of gaining back lost strokes.
Instead, Garon stuck with his game plan, an approach that brought him all the way back to earn the title with a two-day total of 6-under-par 138 at Santa Maria Golf Club.
Blaine Patin began the day at 2-under, two strokes behind Garon and Peyton McCulloch, but took a one-stroke lead into the back nine. Consecutive bogeys dropped Patin out of the lead, and Garon rolled in long birdie putts at 13 and 14 to build an insurmountable lead.
Garon went on to shoot 70. Patin eagled the 18th to shoot 69 and finish a stroke back at 5-under. McCulloch shot 74 and was third at 2-under.
Hunter Smith began the day at 3-under, but lost ground on the back nine and shot 74. Smith finished tied for fourth at 1-under with Gayle Sanchez, who shot 72.
“I wasn’t thinking ‘I’m going to lose,’” Garon said of his mindset after falling behind by two strokes on the front nine.
“I’ve grown up with this golf course, and I knew there were a lot of tough holes left to play. My thoughts were just put the ball in play, don’t try to overpower the course, and stick to my game plan.”
After Garon opened his round with a bogey-bogey start, Smith held at least a share of the lead for most of the front nine. Smith was still only a shot off the lead when he pulled his tee shot into the water at the par-3 11th and made double bogey.
“I should have backed off on 11,” Smith said. “I was in between clubs and wasn’t really committed to the shot.”
Patin tied Smith for a share of the lead at 4-under with a birdie on No. 8. He took the lead outright on the next hole after losing his tee shot right of the fairway. Patin knocked his approach to six feet and sank the putt to get to 5-under.
Garon worked his way back to 4-under by making a 15-foot birdie at No. 6, and then a near tap-in at No. 8 8 after hitting a wedge to two feet.
Back-nine trouble awaited Patin, beginning with a pulled tee shot at 11. He chipped up to three feet but missed the par putt. At the dogleg 12th, Patin pulled his drive into a water hazard leading to another bogey, and he dropped out of the lead for good.
“I really felt good the whole round,” Patin said. “I just hit a bad putt on 11, which is probably my only regret. I hit in the water on 12, but (the tee shot) was only a little left of where I wanted. I thought it was good enough.”
Garon seized the opportunity to increase his lead with solid approaches on 13 and 14, and made birdie putts from approximately 20 feet on both.
By the time Patin reached 18, he was three strokes down, but caught a break when his tee shot hit the cart path. The ball came back into the fairway only 160 yards away, leading to a 15-foot closing eagle.
McCulloch, a Zachary High graduate who recently signed with Nicholls State, lost ground with a double bogey at the par-3 5th. He pushed his tee shot into the bayou guarding the right side of the hole and made double bogey.
A poor chip shot led to a bogey at No. 6, but he battled back with birdies at Nos. 7 and 11. McCulloch found water again with his tee shot at 17 and made bogey before completing a round of 74.
“My goal was to stay at 4-under and just try to make pars,” McCulloch said. “I made a few mistakes, but I made some birdies to get them back. I just fell short at the end.”
Garon thought his lead was only two strokes at 18 and wasn’t sure he had won until Patin congratulated him for winning despite making eagle.
“I’ve played this (tournament) four years now, and I’m glad (winning) it finally happened,” Garon said. “Knowing I beat a lot of good players this weekend gives me confidence.”