Philip Knowles couldn’t think much about the potential PGA Tour berth on the line when he entered the final day of the Players Amateur in Bluffton, S.C. The Bradenton Christian School alumnus trailed by four strokes entering Sunday at Berkeley Hall Club. He was in the mix, but only barely.
Even as the number of holes, and thus the number of opportunities to complete his comeback, dwindled, Knowles’ odds were slim. With five holes to go, he would need three birdies to even force a playoff.
“There’s always that hope to win,” Knowles said Monday. “I didn’t think until 13 or 14 — that’s when it popped in my head that I had the opportunity to win this.”
Knowles rattled off three birdies down the stretch on 14, 15 and 17 to reach a playoff against Bryson Nimmer at 13-under. Nimmer bogeyed the first hole of the playoff, and Knowles secured the biggest win of his young career.
The ultimate prize for Knowles, who recently finished his sophomore season at North Florida, is a spot in next year’s RBC Heritage, an annual PGA Tour event in Hilton Head Island, S.C. The Heritage will almost certainly be Knowles’ first PGA event.
“It’s unreal. It’s a dream. An opportunity like that is what every kid dreams of, myself included,” Knowles said. “It’s an incredible feeling. I still haven’t totally grasped it.”
Knowles was steady throughout the weekend to keep him in position for his final-round comeback. He never put up a single-hole score worse than a bogey, which culminated with his bogey-free round Sunday.
It feels like a breakthrough, kind of, but nothing I’m surprised by. It’s something I always thought that I was very capable of and ready to do.
Philip Knowles, Bradenton golfer
Knowles was feeling good about his play entering the weekend as he sat at No. 225 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He had netted four top-15 finishes so far this year, including a runner-up finish at the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational Golf Tournament and a fifth-place finish at the Schenkel Collegiate Golf Invitational.
“In my mind,” Knowles said, “it was just a matter of time until everything just fell in line, and obviously yesterday was a pretty good time for it.”
With a PGA berth on the line, though, the Players made for one of the largest groups of competition the Bradenton native has faced — and some of his fiercest, although Knowles said he didn’t realize a spot in the Heritage was on the line until he sunk his tournament-winning putt.
Once it was in, a win which he already would have counted as the significant of his career, it only grew in stature.
“For sure the biggest win I’ve had,” Knowles said. “I’ve had some pretty decent-sized wins, but this one obviously means the most.”