NICEVILLE – Parker Milam had given up on the putt.
After three straight bogeys in Thursday's final round of the Daily News Marvin DeBolt Classic, 20 feet separated the Niceville junior from birdie on the par-3 16th. His playing partners, John Cobb and Nicholas Dimitroff, had stuck their tee shots within 6 feet.
Then Milam hit what he called the “worst putt ever.” And the body language said it all, Milam lowering his head and walking toward the cup the moment of impact.
But a funny thing happened. The ball, played about a foot to the left, broke severely into the center of the cup.
With the bleeding stopped and Milam's confidence restored, Cobb and Dimitroff missed their opportunities to completely shift the momentum.
“I did not mean to make it. I mean, I meant to make it, but I thought I hit it way too hard and too far left,” Milam said. “And it just magically went in.”
Two holes later on 18, that birdie loomed large as Milam holed a 4-footer for par to cap off a two-day, one-under-par 143 (69-74) and win the tournament by a stroke over Cobb. Now he joins a lauded list of past winners that includes two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson, Boo Weekly and All-American Stephen Shephard.
“It feels good," Milam said. "It was a real struggle, I’ll tell you that."
Cobb finished a stroke back at even par (72-72), while Dimitroff (71-74) and Fort Walton Beach alumnus Cam Page (73-72) carded a pair of 145s. Page, the Daily News Player of the Year who’s headed to Huntingdon College in the fall, finished his prep career with a 4-under 32 to cap an even-par 72.
“You gotta tell yourself you can’t give up at anytime,” he said. “I knew this was my last junior tournament, so I had to leave it all there. I’m pumped, excited for Huntingdon. I have new clubs, so I’m looking forward to going into college hitting the ball great."
Niceville sophomore Blake Rigdon, whose eagle putt on 18 lipped out and turned into a three-putt par, finished with an even-par 144 (72-72) to win the boys 14-15 division.
“My mom actually yelled to me to not leave the putt short,” Rigdon said of the eagle opportunity. “So I was like, I’m just gonna hit it. It could have gone in, but I was just glad it hit the hole because it could have gone off the green. It wasn’t just that that cost me the overall win, but I guess it kind of did.”
Milam eked out the win by creating a bit of separation on the front nine, his four birdies leading to a 1-under 35. But on the closing nine the bogeys mounted and the gimmes started to skirt the edges.
Then the birdie on 16 rolled in and Milam closed with back-to-back pars for the victory.
“It’s a big win for me,” Milam said. “I’m just going to try to build on it and play some good golf.”
In other male divisions, Destin's Eli Scharf won the 8-9 age group with a two-day, 18-hole score of 86. In the 12-13 division, Luciano Conlan followed up a 2-under 70 with a 1-over 73 to win by 45 shots.