Polk County teenager Sam Horsfield made it look easier than it probably was Sunday, winning the 96th annual Florida State Amateur Championship by 11 strokes at the Jupiter Hills Club.
A 16-year-old who doesn’t have a driver’s license, Horsfield shot the low score in the final round, a 3-under-par 67 on the highly regarded Hills course for a four-round total of 4-under 278.
Horsfield, of Davenport, started the day up by five strokes but said he didn’t assume he had the victory in the bag.
“I knew anything could happen,” he said. “I was hoping to shoot around par.”
Horsfield, who will be a junior in the fall at Ridge Community High School, was 2 under on the front nine with birdies at the second and sixth holes to lead by nine, then had his only hiccup of the day with a double-bogey from the front bunker at the par-5 13th hole.
But before any of his challengers could get excited about the possibilities, Horsfield responded with birdies at the 14th, 16th and 18th holes on putts of 20, 6 and 10 feet to put away the biggest victory of his young career.
“All I can say is ‘Wow,’ ” Horsfield said. “I thought I would do (well), but I never thought much about winning. I have been playing well and had a lot of confidence, but winning the State Amateur?
“This is my biggest win, yes,” added Horsfield, who started playing golf when he was 4 1/2 years old. He shot a 61 last Monday in qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship next month in Virginia, and Wednesday and Thursday he will try to qualify at the Gainesville Country Club for the U.S. Junior Amateur later in July in California.
On a golfing trip to Palm Beach County in February, Horsfield shot a 66 at Mayacoo Lakes but missed by a stroke in Monday qualifying for the Honda Classic PGA Tour event. Still, he said Sunday, “It did a lot for my confidence to be able to hang with all those pros.”
Sean Kelly of Bradenton, the first-round leader with a 66, closed with a 69 to take second at 289.
Kelly, who played in the threesome just ahead of the leaders, said: “When I started this morning I knew anything could happen, but I just tried not be too aggressive. I just wish I could have avoided that debacle the second day,” a reference to the 79 he shot on the adjacent Village course with double-bogeys on his last three holes.
Thad Hudgens of Longwood, who played with Horsfield in the final round, took third with a 73-290. “I knew when I put the peg in the ground on the first tee that I didn’t have a chance of winning,” he said. “I knew it was a battle for second. Sam just doesn’t make mistakes.”
Kevin Jorden of Juno Beach closed with a 70-294 to tie for fourth. After recovering from a series of shoulder and back injuries the past year, Jorden, a Cardinal Newman High graduate, is headed for the University of Southern Mississippi with three years of eligibility remaining.
The record for margin of victory in the State Amateur is 14 strokes, set by Chris Couch of North Lauderdale in 1993 at Bay Hill in Orlando.