FLEMING ISLAND – Middleburg High School golf graduate and state champion Cody Carroll knocked around with some PGA Tour pros for three days and got done with a top 10 finish Thursday afternoon in the Unbridled Tour final round at Fleming Island Golf Club.
“I went 68, 65, 66 the past three days, 14-under par and showed that I can play at this high level,” said Carroll. “Turning pro just became a very good reality. I got three more years of college eligibility, but now I’m very excited to play as a pro. I want to play for money.”
Carroll, a junior to be at University of North Florida, was one of a handful of area golfers in the tournament, sponsored by By Your Side Senior Care, Carroll’s younger brother Chase, a Middleburg High sophomore, former Fleming Island High golf graduate Joshua Lee, who also golfed at Florida State University, and Fleming Island High senior Andrew Lonsdale were all three on the tournament starting roster. Cody Carroll, one of just six amateurs in the event, was the lone survivor of the event with the top 54 golfers playing in Thursday’s final round.
“I learned a lot about how these guys handled to each shot they take,” said Carroll. “Whether they hit a great shot or a bad shot, there is little difference in their reaction. That was the biggest take back I had from the past three days. It’s impressive.”
At the top, Edward Olson, a 32 year old veteran of the PGA Tour, stayed off the radar of the top golfers, but steadily powered his way upward with a final round finish at 22 under par for the win. Olson, who pocketed an $8,650 first place check, landed the top spot with a scintillating final round of 60; just off the course record of 59. Olson was on target to at least tie the record before watching in agony as his penultimate putt on the 18th hole circled the cup and stayed away.
“I knew after the first two rounds that I had to put the pedal to the medal and take some chances in the final round,” said Olson. “The difference was I made a bunch of putts.”
For his efforts, which included rain delays, soppy greens and fairways and a stellar field that had just finished out of the advancing eight of the Monday Korn Ferry Qualifiers at Eagle Harbor Golf Club and Palencia Golf Club, Olson called the field as super competitive.
“You can see with these scores, that the play level was very high,” said Olson. “It quickly became a birdie-fest. The wet ground is something that we, as pros, take into account with our shots knowing the bounces out there will be minimum. We relied on knowing what distances we could cover with each shot.”
After round one, with Western Kentucky golfer Billy Tom Sargent clearing the deck with a 62 (-9) opening salvo, the field stayede close with Garrett May just a stroke off of Tom Sargent’s opener and University of North Florida grad Phillip Knowles a second stroke off in third. Olson, remarkably, was stuck at 19th with a 67 (-4) score that put him five off pace for round two.
“I knew coming in coming in I had to get hot; I needed a 61 or so to win, and I think I had two eagles and seven birdies to keep pace,” said Olson, a player at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a conditional member on the PGA Tour. “That last putt for the 59 was tough. I’ve shot a 59 once before.”
Olson commented that he has been on a nine year journey to achieve the PGA Tour status.
“It’s been a grind and there was a couple times of thinking I might give it up, but this year, with the virus stuff, set things back a bit,” said Olson. “I revitalized my passion a few years back. This is a good jolt that says I have some game.”
For Cody Carroll, the fast opening pace of the first round caught him by surprise, but the wily championship round veteran, despite his opening 69 score kept confident that his consistency would prevail.
“That first round, I shot one over and that killed my chances to get into the top five or three,” said Carroll. “If I had a good three under or even four under, I could have been right there near 18-under with the winner at 22-under.”
Chase Carroll was a bit overwhelmed at his first major tournament against pro golfers and struggled to a last place 82 (+11) score. Lee finished tied for 67th at 78 (+7) with Lonsdale at 49th at 70 (-1).
“He was in a group with a couple of Korn Ferry pros and it was a little overwhelming I think,” said Carroll, who had a couple of Eagles (2-under par). “I think if it showed him the level he has to get to to be competitive at the hightest level. I probably would have been just as bad when I was a freshman to play in an event like this.”
In round two, with the day opening in a energy-sapping fog and high humidity, golfers faced off again with a quick outburst on the course with Iowa State’s Nick Voke blasting his own 62 score to swipe the lead from Tom Sargent, who fell with a 71 (-9) round to finish ninth. Knowles stayed in the top three wiht a 64 with May right behind at 66 to keep the top three now under 130 for the double. Olson, silently moving into position to make a final round run, wound up fourth with a strong 64 with three golfers equalling the 64; Chase Koepka, Jorge Garcia and Evan Harmeling.
Tied at ninth, all at 132 were four golfers led by Tom Sargent and followed by Carroll who moved up a bunch with a solid 65.
Round three proved to be near-perfect weather which, according to Olson, gave the players a bit of confidence that the day would finish on dry land.
With five strokes to make up to crack the top three, Olson set off on a risk-taking attack to push the pace from outside the bubble.
At the 12th and 16th hole, Olson nailed Eagles to steal strokes from the lead pack with his previous two rounds getting pars on 18 and a double bogey on 13 in round one. The wily pro finished a birdie on 18 that missed the record with the missed putt on the final hole.
In second, May doubled bogied 13 to lose ground, while, in third, Voke finished with double bogeys on 14 and 18 to nullify his fast second round.
Carroll, who had a bogey and double bogey in his round one 67, finished with an eagle on three and four birdies to keep close. A bogey on the par five third hole kept Carroll from repeating his 65 score from round two.
Golfers continue with action in north Florida with qualifiers attacking the TPC Sawgrass Dye Valley Course through Sat., June 13 then battling again for the coveted Korn Ferry slots with two Monday qualifiers; at Hidden Hills Country Club and at Marsh Landing Golf Club. The next Korn Ferry is set for World Golf Village, June 17-20 at the King and Bear Classic in St. Augustine. Both Korn Ferry events offered $600,000 purses; $108,000 for the winner.