The annual Amer Ari Invitational is typically a birdie fest, but Eugenio Chacarra took the low-scoring affair to a new level on Saturday in Waimea, Hawaii.
The Oklahoma State senior fired a blistering 10-under 62, a new course record at Hapuna Golf Course, to not only win his first college individual title in come-from-behind fashion, but his birdie-eagle finish was also enough to lead the Cowboys to an incredible final-round rally for the team victory.
Chacarra began the final round in a share of eighth, four shots back of Texas Tech sophomore Baard Skogen, who had the Red Raiders a shot clear of second-place Arizona State – and 10 strokes ahead of Oklahoma State in fifth – after 36 holes. The Spanish star, who went off the fourth hole for the shotgun start, was just 4 under through 12 holes before rattling off three straight birdies at Nos. 16-18.
After par on the par-4 first hole, Chacarra birdied the par-4 second from 12 feet and then eagled the par-5 third, hitting two 2-irons and canning a 20-foot putt after a nearly half-hour wait on the tee, to notch his first career college victory.
"Been in contention lots of times," Chacarra said, "but finally got one."
Though he did enter the week with six career top-5s in college, Chacarra’s putting had held him back from accomplishing more. The Tour-level ball-striker – and arguably the best tee-to-green player in amateur golf – has struggled mightily with the flatstick the past few years, but in November he switched to the broomstick method. The results were immediate: He shot 59 on The Other Course at Scottsdale National in a practice round for the PXG College Golf Showcase, and in the past few weeks he's fired more than a couple rounds of 62 or better, including a 61 in a practice round earlier this week.
"Changed my life," Chacarra said of the putting change. "With the broomstick, I found something where I can actually do a stroke without being nervous or anything. It's not like this round was a coincidence; I've been shooting really low rounds in practice, qualifying, back home, playing with Sergio [Garcia, his mentor]. ... I knew my game was there and I could go low.
"As good as I was hitting the ball, if I could just have a little more luck on the greens..."
Chacarra’s previous low round in college was 66, which is what Oklahoma State junior Rayhan Thomas fired on Saturday to secure a solo-fifth finish. Junior Brian Stark (T-13) and sophomore Jonas Baumgartner each contributed closing 68s as the Cowboys posted a 24-under final round, the round of the day by nine shots, and wrapped up 54 holes at 50 under, a shot ahead of the field.
Arizona State (42 under), North Carolina (38 under) and Washington (26 under) rounded out the top five teams behind Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, which ended with a 13-under team score and a runner-up team finish after junior Ludvig Aberg bogeyed each of his final two holes. Aberg slipped to T-15, but he was still one of four Red Raiders in the top 15. Skogen finished second individually at 17 under, two back of Chacarra and a shot clear of Arizona State’s Mason Andersen and Washington’s R.J. Manke, who now has six finishes of T-3 or better this season, including two wins.
Manke, though, likely still will have plenty of player-of-the-year contenders, including Chacarra, who is poised to not only move further inside the top 5 in PGA Tour U but also crack the next Haskins Award Watch List, which comes out in March.
"Just work harder and harder," Chacarra said of how he plans to keep the momentum going. "You know how I am, I love golf and I'm going to keep working as hard as I can to be up there again and try to get more wins for my team. That's motivation for me every day, and I know I'm going in the right direction."