Evan Harmeling sneaks away with BMW Jamaica Classic golf tourney

By Paul A Reid
Observer writer

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

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ROSE HALL, St James — Evan Harmeling sunk a dramatic birdie on the final hole on Sunday to win the most exciting edition of the BMW Jamaica Classic PGA LatinoAmerica tournament, held at Cinnamon Hill Course in Rose Hall, St James.

The 30-year-old American who led from midway Friday's second round, carded a 21 under par 267 score over the four rounds to finish just ahead of Argentina's Augusto Nunez, who had fallen flat on his back moments before as his own birdie attempt that would have tied up the scores missed by inches.

Both men came to the final hole tied on 20 under par following a gripping battle on the final day and included a bruising back nine where both made mistakes that could have proven fatal.

The Cinnamon Hill back nine bared its fangs and there was bloodletting between the 13th and 14th holes where the leaders traded double bogeys.

It was the first-ever tour win for the Princeton University graduate and he took home the US$31,500 and improved to eighth place on the Order of Merit.

Nunez rose to second on the Order of Merit after his 20 under par 268 score, his compatriot Leandro Marelli was third with 19 under par 269, followed by American Tom Whitney, the first-round leader who was fourth with 18 under par 270 with a bogey on the final hole — though he retained his position atop the Order of Merit — while Chile's Mito Pereira was fifth with 17 under par 271 and also fifth on the Order or Merit.

Sunday's final day was held up for almost an hour-and-a-half by a lightning suspension, the second day in a row, but for the first time in the three-year history of the event there were no rain interruptions.

Also on Saturday, American John Coultas who finished in 48th position overall with five under par 283, made PGA TOUR LatinoAmérica's third hole-in-one of the season on the par seven seventh hole, hitting from 166 yards into the hole.

He joined Andrés Echavarría (Buenaventura Classic) and Herik Machado (Abierto de Chile) with aces, according to the PGA LatinoAmerica website.

“Finishing with a bogey is tough, but all in all a good week; there were a lot of positives and another top five under my belt and I am playing well,” Whitney told the Jamaica Observer.

Harmeling said it was not by accident that he wore a gold-coloured shirt for the final round which he started after completing the last two holes of the third round.

He had opted not to play his last two holes on Saturday after a lightning suspension added two hours to the schedule and play had to be suspended due to bad light.

“It was fun to test the nerves today and I learned a lot and this will help me going forward. I was trying to focus on each shot and made a bad decision and it bit me pretty good,” he said of his double bogey on the par four 14th hole.

“I definitely rushed a couple of decisions there. I didn't relax necessarily, maybe mentally just a touch; and that's the kind of thing you cannot do and I paid for it, so it was nerve-wracking then, but I like when it comes down to the wire; it makes it more fun.”

On the winning birdie put, he said, “I was very thankful that I am confident with my putter right now. I know what I am doing out there and I trusted that. I cleared my mind and my hand was shaking a little bit but I made a good stroke and it's satisfying that it went in.”

Harmeling started the fourth round at 20 under par and was 22 under after the sixth hole and was flying before he bogeyed the par four eighth hole.

Nunez, who previously played the tour which is of a higher standard, and who was in the final pairing with the American, was slowly chipping away and within a stroke of the lead after back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th holes, as Harmeling ended in the sand trap at the 11th hole, a long double-dog-leg right par five, but escaped with a par.

The Argentine's hot streak came to an abrupt end when he failed to get over the sand trap at the front side of the par three 13th hole, having had trouble clearing a six-foot-high wooden obstruction, and double bogeyed.

Harmeling had his double bogey on the very next hole, the par four 14th, hitting his tee shot into the rough below the fairway to the left then played the approach shot well past the green into more rough.

Nunez birdied the 16th and 17th, Harmeling birded the 16th as both marched to the 18th hole tied with talks of maybe a first-ever play-offs.

The South American, who had been aggressive all day, hit his second shot into the rough on the par five 18th hole, shifting the advantage to the American who held his nerve to birdie the final hole with everything on the line.

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