GEORGETOWN — Tom Campbell gave himself a terrific parting gift by winning the 103rd State Amateur championship at Cherry Blossom Golf & Country Club on Thursday afternoon.
Campbell, who's coached at Centre College the past seven years, leaves Friday to go house-hunting in Tennessee, where he's been hired as Division III Sewanee's women's basketball coach.
"Wow," Campbell said after shooting a final-round 70 to win the State Am by one shot over Denver Haddix Jr.
"I told somebody last night that I've been chasing this for 19 years, and here when I am leaving the state, I may win the thing," he said.
"It's a dream. It's a dream."
Campbell, a Shelbyville native, played college golf at Transylvania and later coached the Pioneers. Kentucky Wesleyan is also on his coaching résumé.
He's competed in the State Am for nearly two decades, but he never expected to carry home the trophy.
"I've been playing in this a long time and never really thought about winning," he said. "I just had a great week. Everything fell into place.
"It's just an amazing feeling to be 44 years old and to be out here with these young guys and competing."
Campbell is the first forty-something to capture the title since the late Casey Combs won it at age 43 in 2006.
Campbell had a great three days at Cherry Blossom. He shot a pair of 67s the first two rounds and held a two-shot lead over Haddix going into Thursday's final round.
Haddix, 33, a Lexington real estate appraiser, edged ahead of Campbell by a shot with back-to-back birdies on the sixth and seventh holes. Haddix bogeyed the eighth to drop back into a tie with Campbell.
The seesaw continued when Haddix birdied the 13th to go up by one again.
But Campbell's putter rewarded him down the stretch with three birdies. He rolled in a 5-footer at the 14th to tie it, a 10-footer at the 15th to take the lead, then a 25-footer on the 17th.
When Haddix missed a 5-foot birdie at the 17th, Campbell had a two-shot cushion with one hole to go.
Campbell was surprised by the outcome at the 17th.
"I thought I'd make par and Denver would make birdie," he said, "and we'd go to 18 tied and see what happened.
"But my putt was one I could see the line and could feel it, thank goodness. I just let go and let it happen."
Campbell needed that two-shot lead. He hit a poor chip from just off the 18th green and two-putted from 15 feet for bogey.
Haddix just missed a 15-foot birdie try.
"I hit a good putt that rolled over the edge," he said.
"But I gutted myself by missing short birdies on 15 and 17. I didn't hit bad putts, I just misread them. That's something I did all week."
But Haddix, the only golfer to break 70 all three days (69-67-69), enjoyed his duel in the sun with Campbell.
"Getting the nerves going is always fun," he said. "Tom's a competitor, so I knew we'd have a good battle.
"I couldn't have lost to a nicer guy. He was a perfect gentleman all day."
Trey Shirley (68-70-70) took third place.
Chris Gilles, a Lexington CPA who was in the last group, made a run at the leaders. He eagled the ninth to get within a shot and stayed right on their heels until a double bogey at the 16th doomed him. He tied for fourth with Ashton Van Horne and Clay Hinton.
Campbell said he didn't really feel the pressure of winning until he hit a poor chip on the 18th and lagged his 15-foot par putt to within 2 feet.
"I couldn't feel my hands on the last putt," he said. "That was a long, long 2 feet."
After he knocked it in, he bent over, his hands on his knees, and realized what he had accomplished.
"It was very emotional," he said. "I've chased this a long, long time. Just to be in the last group at 44, and then to win, that's the cherry."