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Former TSA standout Gray wins SCGA Amateur title

By J. SCOTT SEWELL jscott@theitem.com
Posted 8/6/19

Former Thomas Sumter Academy standout golfer Tyler Gray won the 88th South Carolina Golf Association Amateur Championship on Sunday at Thornblade Club in Greer.

Gray finished 16-under for the championship, defeating Logan Sowell by four strokes. …

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Former TSA standout Gray wins SCGA Amateur title

Posted

Former Thomas Sumter Academy standout golfer Tyler Gray won the 88th South Carolina Golf Association Amateur Championship on Sunday at Thornblade Club in Greer.

Gray finished 16-under for the championship, defeating Logan Sowell by four strokes. Gray was the only player to shoot under 70 in each round with scores of 67, 66, 67 and 68. His second round 66 was the top score of the round.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," said Gray, who recorded 21 birdies over the course of the tournament. "I started from nothing last August, and fast-forward 12 months later and I'm the South Carolina Amateur champion, and that's a big deal to me."

Gray enjoyed a prestigious career at Thomas Sumter, winning the SCISA 2A individual state championship in both 2016 and 2017. He was named the '17 SCISA Player of the Year, but his game suddenly fell apart the summer between his senior year of high school and freshman year of college at Coastal Carolina in Conway.

"I got down to school last August and lost all confidence in my golf game," said Gray. "My head coach at Coastal Carolina, Jim Garren, just always kept faith in me. We had a couple of long, late-night phone calls. He worked hard with me and put me under his wing. We finally got everything straightened out this summer, and I've come out better than I was even in high school. I couldn't be more grateful for what he's done for me."

Gray was familiar with Thornblade, having played in the Blade Junior Golf Classic three straight years.

"I knew a lot about the golf course, and I kinda knew what I was getting into before the tournament," said Gray. "I tried to prep my game to get ready for the kind of shots I would be hitting on that golf course and prep myself mentally to take on that golf course."

Rain and lightning caused several delays and play suspensions at the beginning of the tournament, which started on Thursday. Gray didn't begin his second round until 5:20 p.m. on Friday, and then only completed seven holes before play was suspended for the evening. He started again at 8 a.m. on Saturday, finishing the 11 holes from the second round, and then playing the full 18 holes of the third round.

"I don't think it bothered me too much," said Gray. "I got on a tear on the front nine of my third round, and that set the stage for me to be in the final group."

Gray began the final round with the lead, going to bed on Saturday night knowing the tournament championship was within his reach.

"For the first 15-20 minutes laying in bed the night before, I tossed and turned a little bit," said Gray. " It wasn't as much nerves the night before as it was anxiousness. Just ready to get out there and do it, because I knew I had the game to do it."

Gray kept his slim, 1-stroke lead as the final group hit the back nine. He then birdied holes 12, 13, and 15 while hitting a clutch putt on 14 to save par, finally creating separation between himself and the rest of the field.

"I set a goal this summer to win that golf tournament, and I did it," said Gray. "It gives me the utmost confidence in myself and in my golf game. Now that I have the monkey off my back, and I've won a big golf tournament, it honestly set me free a little bit."

Wilson Hall alum duo shines

Wilson Hall's Christian Salzer finished tied for fourth place overall at 10-under, and his former SCISA 3A championship teammate Walker Jones finished 51st overall at 6-over. Jones was near the top of the leaderboard after the third round, but shot a 10-over on the final day to fall out of contention. Salzer played steady all week, shooting 69, 68, 66 and 71.