Zhang cruises to six-shot win in Azalea

Andy Zhang earned a spot on the Azalea Invitational golf tournament's permanent winner's trophy Sunday with a six-shot win. Photo by Tommy Braswell.

Overtaking Andy Zhang in the final round of the Azalea Invitational amateur golf tournament was going to take some help from the 18-year-old University of Florida commitment.

Zhang entered the final round at the Country Club of Charleston with a comfortable three-shot lead built on avoiding mistakes, and by the time he did make a couple of miscues Sunday, it was far too late.

After three straight rounds of 67, Zhang finished with a 3-under-par 68 Sunday and finished the tournament at 15-under 269, six strokes ahead of runner-up Trent Phillips.

Phillips, a University of Georgia signee out of Inman, finished at 70—275, while Christopher Hickman of Centerville, Md., and Andrew McCain of Brisbane, Australia, tied for third at 277.

“This is such an honor. I looked at the (permanent) trophy and saw all the great names who have won this tournament,” said Zhang, a native of Beijing who now calls Orlando, Fla., home.

It was his second win in as many starts for Zhang, who in February won an American Junior Golf Association title in Texas. Zhang is the youngest golfer to compete in a U.S. Open, competing in the 2012 championship at age 14.

Zhang began to distance himself from the field Sunday with a birdie on the par-5 ninth. He pulled his second shot left but was able to hit his third shot to a couple of feet for an easy birdie. Zhang’s closest challenger at that point, Patrick Christovich, parred the hole to fall four back. Phillips also parred the ninth and trailed by seven.

Zhang upped his lead with a par on the 10th hole, which Phillips bogeyed and Christovich double-bogeyed after his tee shot sailed out of bounds. Christovich also bogeyed the par-3 11th, opening the door for a pressure-free back nine for Zhang.

His only two mistakes were a bogey on the par-4 16th and a three-putt bogey on the closing hole, where he rammed a birdie try well past the hole in an effort to get the gallery gathered around the green excited, then missed the short comeback putt.

Azalea Invitational

FINAL SCORES

Andy Zhang, Beijing 67-67-67-68—269

Trent Phillips, Inman 67-70-68-70—275

Christopher Hickman, Centerville, Md. 71-66-71-69—277

Andrew McCain, Brisbane, Australia 70-71-68-68—277

Ryan Celano, Naples, Fla. 68-67-71-72—278

Patrick Christovich, New Orleans 66-68-70-75—279

Jake Kevorkian, St. Petersburg, Fla. 67-70-72-71—280

Jeronimo Esteve, Windermere, Fla. 68-68-69-75—280

Nathan Smith, Pittsburgh 71-66-71-72—280

Cole Hammer, Houston 73-67-73-68—281

Tyson Reeder, Edmond, Okla. 73-69-69-70—281

William Buhl, Fairhope, Ala. 66-73-71-71—281

John Augenstein, Owensboro, Ky. 68-77-67-70—282

Clancy Waugh, North Palm Beach, Fla. 70-72-69-71—282

Todd White, Spartanburg 71-69-69-73—282

Koichiro Ishika, Kalagawa, Japan 74-69-70-70—283

Eric Banks, Gainesville, Fla. 71-71-69-72—283

Alastair Tidcombe, Wolfville, Canada 73-68-69-73—283

James Yoon, Asuncion, Paraguay 71-70-72-71—284

S.M. Lee, Buford, Ga. 74-70-68-72—284

Jack Larkin Sr., Atlanta 74-74-67-70—285

Kaito Onishi, Tokyo 76-66-72-71—285

William Miles, Hilton Head 73-68-70-74—285

Conner Tendall, North Potomac, Md. 72-70-72-72—286

Jarryd Dillas, Hamilton, Bermuda 72-68-74-72—286

Joseph Deraney, Lexington, Ky. 71-68-75-72—286

Brady Exber, Las Vegas 71-71-73-71—286

Spencer Ralston, Gainesville, Ga. 69-75-70-72—286

Garland Ferrell, Greenville 74-68-72-72—286

Drayton Stewart, James Island 71-76-69-70—286

Jose Narro, Tampico, Mexico 69-68-74-75—286

Dan Falls, Gaithersburg, Md. 72-73-73-68—286

Logan Harrell, Huntersville, N.C. 71-66-74-76—287

Daniel Brennan, Shannon, Ireland 75-70-72-70—287

Kyle Nathan, Glenview, Ill. 72-63-77-76—288

Jamie Wilson, Mount Pleasant 72-70-71-75—288

Andrew Orischak, Hilton Head 72-66-73-77—288

Steven Brame, Henderson, N.C. 76-72-67-74—289

John Wright, Aurora, Ill. 72-69-74-74—289

Brett Rinker, Bowling Green, Ohio 73-67-75-74—289

Blake Kennedy, Campobello 76-70-70-73—289

Steven Liebler, Irmo 76-69-71-73—289

Joseph Cansler, Clemmons, N.C. 71-73-72-73—289

Kris Mikkelsen, Atlanta 73-71-72-73—289

Will Strauss, La Jolla, Calif. 70-70-76-73—289

Ryan Abbate, Weston, Fla. 77-69-71-72—289

Lee Palms, Greenville 73-70-74-72—289

William Nottingham, Kingsport, Tenn. 74-76-69-70—289

David Geis, Charlotte 71-70-72-77—290

Cody Proveaux, Lexington 72-72-75-71—290

Pablo Heriada Iglesias, Seville, Spain 72-72-72-75—291

Christian Salzer, Sumter 77-71-71-72—291

Christian Sease, Mount Pleasant 73-67-76-76—292

Chris Minton, Houston 69-75-76-72—292

Henry Shimp, Charlotte 73-70-75-75—293

Wil Sheppard, Mount Pleasant 71-72-76-74—293

Caleb Proveaux, Lexington 71-76-73-73—293

Jack Hall, Savannah 75-64-76-79—294

Mark Cusic, California, Md. 75-69-76-77—297

Carlton Forrester, Atlanta 76-74-70-78—298

Jonathan Rector, Clemson 71-74-75-79—299