Earnhardt capitalizes with 66 for crown

Nine on first hole dooms Medley in Mid-Atlantic

October 07, 2002|By Nathan Max | Nathan Max,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BETHESDA - It took about five minutes for everything to change in yesterday's final round of the 72-hole Middle Atlantic Amateur Golf Championships.

Leading by three strokes after the third round, Andrew Medley started his fourth round with a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 first hole. That opened the door for Greg Earnhardt to shoot his second 4-under-par 66 of the tournament and claim the title by six shots over Medley and Pat Tallent.

"That first hole, I felt bad for Andrew," said Earnhardt, who finished with a four-round total of 6-under 274 on the par-70, 6,674-yard Bethesda Country Club course.

"He's such a good player that you don't really expect it. I figured I was going to have to shoot 66, but maybe to get even or win by one. I didn't figure I'd have a six-shot lead walking up the 18th green."

Medley, 22, of Jackson, Miss., started the day at 5-under, but shot a final-round 5-over 75 to finish at even par. Tallent, 49, of Vienna, Va., a college basketball star at George Washington in the 1970s, shot a 1-over 71 and also was at even par for the tournament.

Medley's lead evaporated as a result of two poor shots on the first hole. After hitting his drive into the rough, he sent his second shot out of bounds. After taking a penalty stroke and a drop, he then hit his fourth shot out of bounds, as well.

"It wasn't nerves, it was just two poor shots," Medley said. "After it happened, I just tried to put it behind me. I felt like I played OK after that. Greg just played really well."

Suddenly, Earnhardt, 33, had a two-shot lead, which he protected with pars on the first seven holes. After a bogey on No. 8, Earnhardt birdied the ninth, 10th, 11th, 13th and 17th to run away with the victory over the post-cut 66-player field.

"I've won some tournaments, but nothing this big," Earnhardt said. "This means a lot to me. One thing I've struggled with is my confidence a little bit. I'm a little negative. It means a lot to me to be able to step up, under the gun, and be able to do this. Plus, this will help me get into hopefully some big tournaments next year, which will help me because I'm not getting any younger."

Gaithersburg native Dan Falls placed fourth at 5-over 285; Whitten Mears of Fair Bluff, N.C., and Chuck Freedman of Beltsville tied for fifth at 286; and defending champion Brian Quackenbush finished seventh at 287.

Tim Dilli of Towson was the Baltimore area's top finisher. Dilli, a member of Baltimore Country Club, placed 11th with a four-day total of 10-over 290.

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