Seven weeks ago Dusty Watts was hoisting The NJCAA National Championship Trophy as he helped lead his Bulldog team to the program's third championship. On July 23 he set a new mark for
a GMC Bulldog Golfers by qualifying for the 2019 Georgia Open.
Dusty Watts, playing as an amateur, fired a 1 under 71 to finish T3 and earn a spot at the GA Open which will take place August 1st-4th at The Ford Plantation Golf Club. The Georgia Open brings together professionals and amateurs vying for a shot at the State Championship which is organized by the Georgia section of the PGA of America and has been played since 1954. Seven amateurs have won the event, most notably Bob Tway in 1980. Tway went on to win thirteen professional events including the 1986 PGA Championship. He was also named the 1986 PGA Player of the Year.
Dusty Watts is hoping to become the 8th amateur to win the GA Open, and his performance in the qualifier has put him in the right state of mind to do so. Dusty commented "I got off to a slow start and really didn't have my best game, but I was able to turn that and finish strong." After a par in #1, he bogeyed three of the next seven holes to drop to +3, but a birdie on the difficult 9th hole got him back on track and he made the turn at +2. "The birdie on 9 was a big one; I hit a good drive and had 97 yards which is a perfect 62 wedge for me. I hit it to about 12 feet and made the putt, it really got my head feeling good." Six straight pars kept him on the outside looking in. "I thought I would have to be under par to qualify, so I needed to make something happen, but I felt good. My irons were now working and I made a putting change on #12 that gave me more confidence on the greens." Dusty seems to thrive in moments like this. In June at the NJCAA National Championship he made a 4 foot birdie putt on #18 to give his team the win, and on Tuesday he would need similar heroics.
This confidence proved valuable as he played #15 well and just missed a birdie putt. "The putt on 15 didn't drop, but I played that hole great, hit the fairway with my drive, an excellent iron shot and had the speed perfect on the putt, just a little off line. I really felt like I would not miss a shot the rest of the way." With his confidence high he stood on the tee at the long par 4 16th needing to birdie two of the last three to have a chance. He striped his drive down the middle setting up a 125 yard approach which he put inside of 12 feet and made the uphill birdie putt. On the tee at the short par 5 17th, He hit a 310 yard drive leaving himself 198 to the pin. He then ripped his 6 iron to 25 feet, just missing the eagle putt and tapped in for birdie. On the 18th tee he took out his driving iron and was not happy with his tee shot as he left himself in the short rough with 138 yards to the pin; his least favorite distance. But today his wedge worked hitting the green 30 feet from the hole and kept chasing back to the flag 'til
l it stopped hole high and just 6 feet from the cup. He drained the putt dead center to earn one of the five qualifying spots in the 2019 Georgia Open.
After the round Watts commented, "It was a weird day; I didn't hit many fairways or greens, but I was never really in any trouble. The greens were really slow, and it took me a while to adjust, but ending like I did makes me feel really good going into the Open." Dusty added, "I am excited to get to the Ford Plantation and see what it's like. I don't know too much about it, except that the initiation fee is 125K so it's probably not too shabby." Dusty also commented on teammate Luke Ninneman who also tried to qualify for the open but came up 2 shots shorts. "Luke made a 25 foot birdie putt on 18, but it wasn't enough." Dusty has a practice round at 2pm on Wednesday, July 31st and will tee it up at 1pm on Thursday, August 1st in the first round. The Georgia Open will be played August 1st-4th at The Ford Plantation Golf Club in Richmond Hills, GA. This Pete Dye Signature Course also hosted the GA Open on 2016 and 2017.