PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — After Ian Gilligan of Florida and Nick Gabrelcik of North Florida battled for the individual lead during the first 12 holes of the Sea Best Invitational’s final round on Tuesday, Gabrelcik’s teammate Robbie Higgins, playing in the group ahead, passed them both with short birdie putts at Nos. 13 and 15 at the TPC Sawgrass Dye’s Valley Course.
Higgins then hit neither fairway nor green at the toughest par-4 hole on the course and delivered the birdie that gave him his second college tournament title.
Higgins, a senior left-hander from Bradenton, chipped in from behind the 17th green and with a shout and a fist pump gave himself a three-shot lead that assured the individual title in the opening spring tournament for 15 teams.
Higgins was able to play No. 18 for a safe bogey and with a 65, finished at 5-under-par 205, one shot ahead of Gilligan (69) and three over Gabrelcik (69).
The defending national champion Gators won their third Sea Best title in a row and seventh overall at 2-over-par 842, slipping past UNF by three shots. The next nearest team was Louisville, another 15 shots behind the Ospreys.
Robbie Higgins had one bogey
Higgins nearly chipped in at the final hole, with the ball sliding past the cup on the high side and leaving an 8-foot par putt, which he missed for his only bogey of the day.
But the shot of the day was his chip at No. 17, to a tight pin from about 18 feet away.
The hole is one of two par-5 holes on the course that play as par-4s for the tournament. Higgins’ drive went into the right rough, leaving him 186 yards from the hole, with a tree in his way.
Higgins took a 6-iron and punched it under the tree, hoping to be short or have the ball roll onto the green. But he caught it heavy and the ball ran through the green to the back apron.
He hit the chip low and it skidded, checked up and then hit the back of the hole.
Higgins said he charged the hole on the chip and felt if he missed it, he would have, at worst, an 8-foot putt coming back.
“It’s so grainy around the green … I told myself I’m going to hit a great shot,” he said. “If it rolls 8 feet past, then I’ve got to make a putt for par. I executed a perfect shot and the hole got in the way.”