EAST MANATEE -- Chase Marinell's journey in professional golf only began this summer, but the Fort Myers resident already is making a splash.
Marinell's latest success came at the three-day, 54-hole West Florida Golf Tour Summer Tour Championship held at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club.
Marinell fired a 14-under-par 202 total for a two-shot victory over Tampa's David Branshaw. A final-round 66 was enough to overtake Branshaw and Fort Myers' Brandon Lee, the second round co-leaders, for the $4,000 first prize.
"I've just been hitting my stride ever since I turned pro," said Marinell, who became a pro at this year's Florida Open in mid-July after graduating from Liberty University. "I don't know what switched or what happened, but ever since I just focused on golf -- I don't have other obligations as school or random things that come along with college -- I really have taken off with my golf game."
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It was Marinell's fourth professional event, and it served as his third victory. The tournament also reunited Marinell with the Ritz, a course he hadn't played for two years when he finished runner-up in the 2012 Florida Open held there and at Sara Bay Country Club.
"I've had some good vibes here; I think that's just about it," Marinell said. "Just the good vibes and knowing I can attack the golf course. ... I think it's a simple golf course. It's right out in front of you, so there's not many tricky parts to it."
On Wednesday, Marinell's turning point occurred on the back nine, when he
ripped off three birdies out of the first four holes on that side to put the pressure on the final pairing of Branshaw and Lee. The latter finished in third place at 11-under par.
Marinell said the number he had in mind for the back nine was 4 under to claim the title. He ended up with a 5-under tally.
"I made a bomb on (No.) 10, maybe like a 35-footer on 10," Marinell said. "That kind of got me going. I was like, 'OK, I can make this a good nine.' And just kept going with it. Made birdies on (Nos). 16 and 18, which were pretty huge birdies."
Meanwhile, there was another battle brewing. Bradenton's Hampton Ballard and Fort Myers Beach resident Kenny Goodykoontz were jockeying to join Lakewood Ranch's Chris Kennedy in the top two of the WFGT's Q-School Points Race.
Kennedy secured his $2,500 bonus to go toward the PGA Tour's Latinoamerica Q-School in January as the top performer during the 13-tournament slate.
"Early on, I was rolling it really good," said Kennedy, who finished the Tour Championship in a tie for 19th place and $17,132 in earnings for the summer following the $2,500 bonus. "I'm still hitting it good; I'm just not making anything. I think I hit 42 greens this week and shot even par. I mean, that's not very good."
However, the question entering this week's tournament was who would join Kennedy in the top two.
Players were required to compete in a minimum of nine events to be eligible for the $2,500 bonus.
That left Ballard and Goodykoontz as the lone survivors at the conclusion of Wednesday's action.
Goodykoontz, despite finishing in a tie for ninth place compared to Ballard's tie for seventh place, was ahead by enough points and money to secure the second position.
"It's a great opportunity for aspiring professionals trying to make it on the PGA Tour. This is a great a tour for guys to come out and figure out how to win," said Goodykoontz, who accomplished the task with torn ligaments in his left ankle.
The tournament, which featured a one-hour rain delay, also had a hole-in-one in the final round. That distinction went to Lakewood Ranch's Adam Hogue, who knocked his ace in with a 5-wood on the 233-yard par-3 16th hole.