BRADENTON -- Hunter Sagar’s sparkling fall continues.
The Lakewood Ranch High senior rattled in his birdie putt on the third playoff hole to win the 14th annual City of Bradenton Men’s Amateur at River Run Golf Links on Sunday.
Earlier this month, Sagar and his Lakewood Ranch teammates became the first public high school in Manatee County history to win a state title in boys golf.
Now Sagar gets to cherish in some individual glory after his 71-70--141 booked a playoff against Bradenton’s Steve Slocum.
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The two matched pars after each misfired on short birdie putts on the first extra hole.
Sagar then had an opportunity to close Slocum out on the par-4 15th, the second sudden-death hole.
However, he couldn’t convert the birdie.
On the third extra hole, though, Sagar didn’t miss his shot at becoming the new city champ.
“I had a similar putt earlier (Sunday),” said Sagar, who is one of several Missing Link Golf Academy players to show impressive play, including his high school teammates Ramsey Touchberry and Danny Walker.
The duo began the playoff on No. 10, and it ended on the 10th with only Sagar putting for birdie after Slocum found himself in trouble off the tee and needed to punch a low shot under trees.
His approach went over the green and he had to chip down, which set up Sagar with a winning birdie putt.
However, Slocum notched the only round under par in the two-day, 36-hole event after a final-round 69.
Neither Slocum nor Sagar closed well in their respective rounds.
Slocum had it going until the par-4 16th, when he found out where he stood on the leaderboard.
He bogeyed the 17th and missed an 8-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that would have sealed victory.
“I bogeyed 16 and 17 (Sunday) by hitting bad shots,” Slocum said. “And I had a one-shot lead sitting on the 16th tee and that was the first time I knew what was going on all day. And I choked ... I’ll be the first one to admit it, I flat-out choked.”
Meanwhile, Sagar was playing in the final pairing after an opening-round 71 left him tied with Larry O’Brien and Paul Grondahl. O’Brien and Grondahl struggled on Sunday and weren’t in contention.
Sagar plotted along at 1-under par entering the finishing hole. A bogey there left him tied with Slocum after the two rounds.
While winning a state championship was a special moment, that accomplishment was a team effort.
And golf is an individual sport, so capturing the title as Bradenton’s city champ ranks up there with his medalist honors at the 2011 Honda Classic High School Invitational in late September that enabled the Mustangs to win the team portion in a playoff and keep their unbeaten season intact.
Sagar played the state tournament as Ranch’s No. 5 player, but his form at the narrow River Run track was that of a seasoned veteran.
And standing in his way during the playoff was Slocum, which had a young-versus-old overtone.
Sagar prevailed and accepted the championship during the awards presentation as former Manatee High and Nebraska standout Tyrone Williams, who played on the 1996 Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers, was in attendance. Williams said he was introduced to golf by former teammate Seth Joyner in 1997.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Sagar about seeing a former NFL star at the post-round gathering.
Joe Clarkson had a chance at history. Playing out of the first flight, Clarkson blitzed the opening nine at River Run and turned in 4-under par 31.
The charge put Clarkson tied for the lead, but that position would be short lived.He found the hazard off the tee on Nos. 11 and 12. Back-to-back double bogeys sealed his fate.
“My putter was feeling good. I hit some good shots,” Clarkson said. “And thought I was right there. I can’t say the pressure or whatever it was, but I knew because they told me at the turn that I was tied for the lead. So I don’t know if it was that or me ... I went double-double and then bogeyed 13, so I was 4-under and then boom, I was 1-over just like that.”
Had Clarkson kept his rip-roaring front nine down the stretch, then he might have triumphed from the first flight. River Run head golf professional Clint Wright said no player has ever won the event outside the championship flight.
Other flight winners include: Clarkson (first flight); Kevin Gilbert (second flight); Nick Petti (third flight); Jonathan Clark (fourth flight); Jason Dill (fifth flight); Charles Hamel (sixth flight); and Roy Hampton (seventh flight).