McALLEN — Edinburg’s Joe Avitia, 30, knew he had to rely on his putting coming into the McAllen Amateur Golf Championship, and his putting did not disappoint him.
Avitia shot a second-round 74 on Sunday to follow his opening-round 72, and his 146 final score was good enough to net him the win and earn having his name engraved on the Art Metcalf Trophy at the McAllen Amateur Golf Championship at Palm View Golf Course.
“In the beginning, I was nervous,” Avitia said. Avitia, an Edinburg Economedes graduate, was paired with two-time champion Genaro Davila, of San Antonio, and four-time champion Miguel del Angel Jr., of Mission. The three were paired together Sunday because they had the top three scores on Saturday. “I didn’t expect it to be like this, but they put you with some good players, and you have to play your best. That’s what happened to me today. I hung in there and hit fairways and greens as much as I could. It was a pleasure playing with these two guys that had a good ability and knowledge of this course. They helped me out. I love the competition.”
Avitia brought a seven-stroke lead into the final round. He got on a roll early on Sunday, and after the first six holes, he knew the Metcalf trophy was his for the taking.
“That’s when I put some pressure on the other two competitors,” Avitia, who won by strokes, said. “It held in my favor and it helped me out a lot.”
The Palm View course was a star throughout the weekend. In July, Palm View became the third course in the world to install Champion G12 Dwarf strain of grass on its greens. The vibrant greens played extremely fast throughout the weekend.
Other measures were taken to improve the course for this tournament. Palm View had a high rough, making it very difficult for golfers who failed to hit the fairways. And the fairways themselves were narrowed, requiring accuracy on every shot from the field of 135 golfers who competed.
“The course was great,” Davila, who finished third overall with a first-round 75 and a second-round 79 for a 154 total, said. “It was very difficult. The new greens were rolling perfect, but fast. My golf game quit on me, but the golf course is in great shape. It’s just going to get better too, because the greens are new.”
With the course playing so tough, Avitia, who played for UT-Brownsville from 2005-06, took a conservative approach and did his best to maintain the cushion he built for himself early. He said the front nine played a bit easier than the back nine. So after an early lead, Avitia knew how to close.
“I told myself: ‘Leave yourself 10 feet putts and get close, a foot or less, and make the par putt,’” Avitia said. “It was a good adjustment. … The ups and downs and saving par putts helped me a lot. I had a couple holes that I let it go by, but that’s golf.”
The other two golfers in his group, Davila and del Angel, did their best to slow Avitia.
“We knew we had to put some pressure on him, but we could never get it going,” Davila said. “Then we started playing aggressive, and things didn’t work out well.”
While Davila and del Angel were chasing, an opportunistic Calvin Lackey snuck into frame. Lackey finished the first round tied for ninth with a 79. Lackey charged forward in the second round with a 73 to give him a total of 152, which was good for second place overall.
Lackey’s 73 was the second-lowest 18-hole total of the tournament, outdone only by Avitia’s first round 72.
Avitia has played in the McAllen Amateur three times. In 2015 and 2016, Avitia took second place.
“The last two years being runner-up was fine, but this year I had to hang in there with these guys (del Angel and Davila),” Avitia said. “So it was a really good thing that I held in there and got a win for the first time in three years.”