Flawless Nesmith captures Azalea Invitational

Matthew Nesmith, 18, had a bogey-free round Sunday on his way to winning the Azalea Invitational.

A bogey-free final round propelled Matthew Nesmith of North Augusta to a three-shot victory Sunday in the Azalea Invitational golf tournament at the Country Club of Charleston.

Tied for the lead going into the final round, Nesmith never trailed, stringing together five birdies for his third consecutive 66. He finished the 72-hole event at 14-under-par 270, three shots ahead of Jim Liu of Smithtown, N.Y., who closed the tournament with a 68.

Keith Mitchell of Chattanooga, Tenn., posted the day’s best round, a 6-under-par 65, to finish third at 274, while Brad Wilder of Fort Wright, Ky., and Michael Miller of Brewster, N.Y., tied for fourth at 275.

“It’s awesome to come out here and beat some of the really good players that I did,” said Nesmith, and 18-year-old senior at North Augusta High School and the country’s No. 7-ranked junior golfer who will be playing at South Carolina next season.

“It feels really, really, really good. It’s probably the best golf I’ve played. This is one of the most exciting wins of my life, just because of the way I played. I was making clutch putts down the stretch. Everything just felt right.”

Nesmith said his goal for the final round was to birdie all the par-5s and not make any bogeys. He managed to birdie both front-nine par-5s at the Country Club of Charleston to get to 11-under for the tournament when he made the turn. Back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13 were bonuses. He did not birdie 15, the only par-5 on the back nine, but sank a 15-foot putt on the final hole for good measure.

“I knew if I didn’t make any mistakes they were going to have to come catch me,” said Nesmith. “I birdied 13 and that gave me a little cushion and made me a little more relaxed. I knew if I hit fairways and greens from there on in, I would be pretty tough to beat and that’s pretty much what I did.”

Liu, who at age 14 won the 2010 U.S. Junior to replace Tiger Woods as the youngest winner of that national title, managed to put some pressure on Nesmith, making birdies at 10 and 11 as well as the par-5 15th which got him within two shots. But Liu was unable to get any closer.

“Matt’s a great friend. We’ve played a lot of junior tournaments together so it was a blast out there,” Liu said. “We both played well. I’m happy to see him win, although I wish I could be in his shoes right now. He deserves it.

“He didn’t make any mistakes down the stretch. He’s a great player and hung in there.”

FINAL SCORES Matthew Nesmith, NAug 72-66-66-66—270

Jim Liu, Smithtown, N.Y. 65-72-68-68—273

Keith Mitchell, Chattanooga 70-69-70-65—274

Brad Wilder, Ky. 64-70-71-70—275

Michael Miller, N.Y. 68-69-69-69—275

Wyndham Clark, Colo. 71-72-68-65—276

Todd White, Spartanburg 70-68-71-68—277

Rob Simmons, Beaufort 64-71-71-71—277

Nicholas Reach, Pa. 73-64-72-69—278

Garland Green, , Va. 65-71-69-73—278

Michael Cromie, Cary, N.C. 71-66-67-74—278

Conor Richardson, Fla. 70-65-73-71—279

Nathan Smith, Pittsburgh 72-69-66-72—279

Sebastian Mexico City 71-70-73-67—281

Scott Harvey, G’boro, N.C. 72-68-72-70—282

Brian Carter, Athens, Ga. 69-73-72-69—283

Carson Young, Pendleton 73-70-71-69—283

John Engler, Augusta 75-67-70-71—283

Rhys Enoch, Tenn. 76-69-69-70—284

Nick Gilliam, Fla. 72-70-69-73—284

Spencer Cole, Greer 69-70-71-74—284

Sherrill Britt, West End, N.C. 73-73-69-70—285

Uly Grisette, Winston-Salem 69-66-73-77—285

Victor Wiggins Gastonia, N.C. 66-74-68-77—285

Paul Tucker, Waxhaw, N.C. 72-74-69-71—286

Cristobal Del Solar, Fla. 73-73-70-70—286

Manav Shah, Calif. 75-70-71-70—286

Connor Black, Texas 72-72-70-72—286

Joey Garber, Athens, Ga. 71-70-72-73—286

Sean Kelly, Bradenton, Fla. 72-71-74-69—286

James Fox, Dublin, Ireland 72-71-71-73—287

Jacobo Pastor, N. Charleston 74-68-74-71—287

Spencer Lawson, Raleigh 74-70-69-74—287

David Cooke, Ill. 70-73-72-73—288

Nick Biesecker, Va. 68-75-73-72—288

Walter Todd, Laurens 68-72-76-72—288

Jacob Burger, Orangeburg 77-71-68-73—289

Josh Branyon, Honea Path 69-75-72-73—289

Brian Westveer, Charlotte 72-75-71-72—290

Rick Cloninger, Fort Mill 73-73-72-72—290

Ryan Abbate, Weston, Fla. 71-78-70-71—290

Stephen Behr, Florence 72-73-71-75—291

Jeremy Grab, Daniel Island 73-74-71-73—291

Grayson Murray, Raleigh 76-70-71-75—292

Jack Larkin, Atlanta 75-74-71-72—292

Robert De Biase, Doral, Fla. 74-74-68-77—293

Kevin Marsh, Nev. 72-72-75-74—293

Jack Hall, Sea Island, Ga. 72-72-75-74—293

Greg Earnhardt, G’boro, N.C. 79-72-69-73—293

Brady Exber, Las Vegas 74-74-72-73—293

Bryan Newton, Gray Court 71-74-72-77—294

Charlie Danielson, Wis. 71-74-74-75—294

Austin Langdale, Townville 70-76-74-74—294

Mark Cusic, Md. 79-67-74-75—295

Michael Assey, Mt Pleasant 73-71-72-80—296

Grant Daugherty, Tenn. 72-75-70-80—297

Gettys Glaze, Charleston 73-74-73-77—297

Emilio Lorente, Mexico 75-72-73-77—297

James Yoon, Bradenton, Fla. 74-75-71-79—299

Christian Sease, Mt Pleasant 70-74-76-79—299