Heading into the final day of the 102nd Kentucky Amateur Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville there was little doubt who’d be taking home the first-place hardware. University of Kentucky junior Tyler “Chip” McDaniel opened with rounds of 64 and 66 to build a gaudy eight-shot lead and squash any thoughts of a dramatic battle down the back nine.
The question was whether the Manchester native would break a 13-year-old tournament record.
McDaniel shot a 1-under 71 on Thursday to capture his second State Am championship and finish with a 15-under 201, beating J.B. Holmes’ record score of 202, which the former Wildcat and current PGA mainstay set at Bowling Green Country Club in 2004.
McDaniel, who won the 2013 State Am as a junior at Clay County High School, said he was consciously gunning for the record down the stretch.
“It was definitely on my mind coming down the back nine,” he said. “I was proud of the way I handled it. I took it one shot at a time and didn’t get ahead of myself.”
After a bogey on the 10th hole McDaniel was even on the day. He responded with a mammoth drive into the middle of the fairway on the par-5 11th that gave him a chance to reach the green in two shots. McDaniel unloaded with a fairway wood and his shot settled about 15 feet from the pin. He sank the putt for an eagle and felt the weight lift from his shoulders.
“After that eagle I just relaxed, it made all of the emotions go away. It allowed me to just kind of coast on in,” he said.
Despite a bogey on the 17th hole McDaniel just needed to par No. 18 to break Holmes’ mark. He smashed another long drive down the left side of the fairway then landed a beautiful iron shot in the middle of the green. He two-putted for par to seal the title and the record.
Three of McDaniel’s UK teammates also finished in the top ten. Stephen Stallings finished in a second-place tie while Matt Liston and Cooper Musselman tied for sixth. Stallings’ 5-under 67 was the lowest score of the final round. The outgoing senior, who hopes to begin qualifying school later this summer, said the State Am experience with his teammates and their upcoming trip to Ireland are the perfect coda to his college career.
“It’s good that we all got to play some good golf before we head to Ireland tomorrow,” he said.
The UK team and its coaches will spend 10 days on the Emerald Isle, competing on a different course each day.
“I’m sure we’re gonna have some heated battles over there so I’m excited,” Stallings said.
Georgetown native Billy Tom Sargent tied Stallings for second place and played in McDaniel’s group on the final day. The Western Kentucky University sophomore said he knew no one was catching McDaniel.
“He pretty much had control of the tournament since round two. I was playing for second,” Sargent said. “Tyler played incredible. It was gonna take something spectacular to beat him.”