WEST POINT — Clay Homan played the teacher.
Despite struggling Sunday for most of the final round of the Mississippi State Amateur Championship, Homan kept swinging until his shots — or his luck — improved.
Alex Rowland was the pupil. He trailed his college golf coach by two shots entering the final hole before capitalizing on Homan”s regrettable approach on the No. 18 and putting for a birdie to force a playoff.
From there, the teacher won.
Homan played it safe after watching Rowland”s first approach of the playoff fall short of the green. And after Homan made his putt, he watched Rowland”s attempt from six feet rim out of the hole, sealing Homan”s third Amateur title.
“Nothing was really easy,” said Homan, who recently completed his eighth season as men”s golf coach at Mississippi State. He finished the four-day tournament with a 6-under-par 282, including a 2-under-par 70 Sunday.
“I played some good golf, but it wasn”t easy,” he said. “My nerves were getting to me. Just wasn”t very confident out there. But somehow I figured out a way to get it done, and sometimes it”s like that.”
Rowland, who will be a senior this fall on the MSU golf team, said he swung too easy on his approach in the playoff, allowing the wind to push his shot down. While he avoided the bunker, the grass was too much of a nuisance to allow a chip shot.
“The second shot from the fairway, that”s where I lost the tournament,” Rowland said. “But kind of the way we went back and forth — we played good for a while, then we played bad then at the end, we both played good — I felt like we were both fortunate to have a chance to win.”
Homan survived a front nine where he shot even par — two birdies and two bogeys. Rowland also was up and down, collecting birdies on Nos. 2, 3, and 4 and suffering a double bogey on No. 5 and a bogey on No. 6.
Nicholas Brown, the University of Southern Mississippi golfer who entered the final round with a three-shot lead, struggled the most with two bogeys and a double bogey to just one birdie.
Homan didn”t start to recover until he sank a 50-foot putt for birdie on No. 13. It was his first birdie on the hole at the event. He eagled No. 15, sinking a putt from about 15 feet, before making a putt for birdie on No. 16. He entered the final hole up two, with the only obstacle in front of him a water hazard to the left of the par 4. Homan”s tee shot missed the fairway and fell just inbounds but off to the right.
Homan reached the green, where he bogeyed, but watched Rowland force a playoff with a birdie from eight feet.
Brown finished 7-over-par 79 to end the tournament at even par.
Former Mississippi College standout Ryan Ratcliff holed an eagle and placed fourth at 1-under-1 289.
Homan and Rowland were the lone golfers Sunday to finish under par. University of Mississippi”s Thomas Watkins Jr. and MSU”s Chad Ramey tied for fifth. First-round leader Billy Brozovich, who also plays at Ole Miss, finished seventh. Defending champion Fletcher Johnson finished tied for 19th.
The tournament allowed Homan and Rowland to accomplish different objectives.
For Homan, it was his chance to add some memorabilia to his five-week-old son Henry”s room.
“This is my third one, and it doesn”t get any easier. It doesn”t seem, especially at 39,” he said shortly after receiving his reward for four days of golf: hugs from wife, Kim, and daughter, Ivy Francis, 2.
For Rowland, it gave him another chance to work on his putting, an
aspect of his game that limited his opportunities this season at MSU.
The final round also allowed coach and player to spend time together on the course, albeit in a different setting than usual. They shared a golf cart but few course strategies in the final round. At times, especially after Rowland putted, Homan would grin slightly, as if he had advice or words of encouragement he wanted to share.
“He”s a competitor, which I knew already,” Homan said. “His game is just getting better and better. … But it was just a matter of him getting his putting better and it looks like he”s done that.
“It looks like he”s on a mission. He”s on a mission to start playing some better golf and lead our team because as we saw today, he”s capable of doing that.”
Rowland hopes so.
“I hit the ball pretty much this good last year,” Rowland said. “I just didn”t putt well. Putting is where you win or lose it, just like there on 18.”
Rowland will continue to tweak his game in several other tournaments this summer, including the Southeastern Amateur Golf tournament next week in Columbus, Ga. Homan will play in the Greenwood Invitational and at the Mid Amateur Championship in Philadelphia.
After that, his golf clubs will prepare for several months in “cobwebs,” he joked.