By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
WEST POINT – Clay Homan’s game was stuck in idle Sunday when he came to No. 13, a hole he had bogeyed three previous days at Old Waverly Golf Club.
That’s when he switched gears.
Homan, Mississippi State’s golf coach, sank a 40-foot up-hill putt for birdie to set up his run for an eventual playoff victory against one of his MSU players, Alex Rowland, for the Mississippi Golf Association’s State Amateur championship.
“Up until that point I really hadn’t done anything,” said the Fulton native. “I was struggling with my swing. My putting was awful.
“I didn’t feel good about anything I was doing.”
Homan went on to par 14, eagle 15 with a 15-foot putt and birdie 16 to build a two-stroke advantage over Houston’s Rowland with one hole of regulation to play.
On 18, Homan opened the door for his pupil with a wide-right tee shot. He wedged it out to the fairway, hit to the green, then two-putted for bogey.
Rowland responded with a strong second shot to within 10 feet, then knocked it in for birdie to force a playoff.
“That was (Homan’s) first bad swing in about an hour and a half,” Rowland said, referring to his coach’s errant tee shot on 18. “On my putt, I just started it on my line and it went in.”
The players finished 72 holes tied with 6-under-par 282 scores – Homan (69-72-71-70) and Rowland (70-71-71-70).
Homan won on the first playoff hole with a short tap-in for par.
Rowland, who had to hit onto the green from the rough above a bunker, saw his 12-foot putt for par just lip out.
“I thought I had made it,” he said. “I was walking up to get it when it lipped out. I might have jinxed myself.”
Homan and Rowland entered the final round tied at 4-under-par. Both recorded 2-under 70s Sunday.
“My hat goes off to Alex for the way he battled,” Homan, 39, said. “He stepped up and handled himself with a lot of dignity and pride. He did what he was supposed to do.
“For him to make birdie on that last (regulation) hole was phenomenal.”
Rowland enjoyed the thrill of battling his coach for a championship.
“It was fun and exciting,” he said. “He didn’t back down and I didn’t either.”
The State Am title was the third for Homan. He also won the event in 1994 and 2005.
“I played some good golf, but nothing was easy,” he said. “Somehow, I figured out a way to get it done.”
Nicholas Brown, a senior on the Southern Miss golf team, entered the final round with a three-stroke lead. He finished six shots behind the leaders with a 288.
Ryan Ratcliff, a former Mississippi College player, was fourth with a 289 while MSU’s Chad Ramey of Fulton and Ole Miss golfer Thomas Watkins were tied for fifth with 292.