GOLF: HHI’s Griz finishes 3rd at famed Azalea Invitational

Hilton Head Island’s Jonathan Griz showed off his prowess against some of the country’s best this week, finishing in third place at the prestigious Azalea Invitational played at the historic Country Club of Charleston.

A staple of the South’s amateur golf schedule since 1946, the Azalea Invitational attracted more than 90 of the country’s best amateurs, mid-ams, and juniors to Charleston, and Griz kept himself near the top of the impressive leaderboard all week, finishing a respectable 1 under par — one of only three golfers to finish the week in red numbers. 

Big-hitting Argentine Abel Gallegos overpowered the classic Seth Raynor layout with a four-day total of 6 under par. Gallegos proved to be the class of the field, firing a Sunday-best 68 and the only golfer to shoot in the 60s during a difficult wet and windy final round. 

Gallegos is no stranger to quality fields and prestigious tournaments. In 2020, the bomber won the Latin America Amateur Championship, earning the then 17-year-old an invitation to the 2020 Masters. 

Griz was on fire during Thursday’s first round and flew to the top of the leaderboard at 3-under when play was suspended as he teed it up on the 15th hole. The next morning, he finished his round by birdieing two of his last four holes and took the lead all alone, carding an eye-catching 67. The 4-under round tied for the low round of the tournament.

Griz’s 71 in the second round and 73 in the third round kept the teenager in the top three and with a strong shot to add the Azalea Invitational hardware to his ever-growing trophy collection. His final round 1-over 72 saw three birdies that were unfortunately stifled by four bogeys and ultimately left Griz five shots back from the winner.

Other notables in the field included 2016 Azalea champion Todd White, a former Walker Cup player and Hilton Head Island High School teacher, who finished in 11th at 4-over par. The mid-am legend’s final-round 76 kept him out of serious contention for the title. 

Also in the field was former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS Sports announcer Tony Romo. Romo failed to make the 54-hole cut, finishing at 24 over par. His tournament was highlighted by a phenomenal eagle on the short par-4 13th hole on Thursday, but followed by a quintuple-bogey 9 on the testy par-4 13th hole.

Past champions of the Azalea include reigning RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing champion Webb Simpson and former Hilton Head Island resident and PGA Tour winner D.J. Trahan.

By Brian Rietveld

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