ATHENS, Ga. -- Former Georgia All-American Hudson Swafford fired a blistering 9-under 62 Sunday to come charging from the back of the pack and win the Stadion Classic at UGA in dramatic fashion. Swafford capped off a brilliant final round by holing out from a greenside bunker for birdie and sending the hometown fans into a concussion of roars.
Swafford, a rookie on the Nationwide Tour, put a 17-under 267 total on the board, but then had to wait another 90 minutes for the rest of the field to finish.
“I did what I could,” said Swafford after he signed his card. “We’ll see if it’s good enough.”
Several players had chances down the stretch, but nobody could match the magic of the red and black, ultimately turning Stafford’s good enough into spectacular. And legendary.
“I couldn’t see it. I heard it hit the pin and then I heard everybody just go nuts. When I went up there and saw it had disappeared I blacked out to be honest,” said Swafford. “To hole out a bunker shot to win a golf tournament is amazing.”
Swafford waited out the field and wound up one better than Luke List, last week’s winner of the South Georgia Classic, and two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, who birdied seven of his last eight holes, including the final five.
A birdie at No. 17 had given List a share of the lead, but the former Vanderbilt star pushed his tee shot at No. 18 into the trees. His second shot, an uphill 6-iron from the right rough, caught the pines and dropped 40 yards in front of him. His third wound up left of the green, and he ultimately holed a 12-footer for bogey.
“This is unbelievable. My first win is huge and to be in Athens, words don’t describe it,” said Swafford, who follows in the footsteps of former teammate Rusell Henley, who won here last year as an amateur. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. The way it happened is a dream come true.”
Swafford collected a check for $99,000 which jumped him from No 61 to No. 7 on the money list.
“This is just a starting point. This is no time to get comfortable,” he said. “I’m still a long way from where I need to be. I’m another win away from getting anything done.”
Florida’s Billy Horschel (68) was fourth, third-round leader Tyrone Van Aswegen (70) was fifth and Jim Herman was sixth.
Swafford started the final day five shots off the pace set by Van Aswegen, but figured he was still close enough. The round started on the wrong foot when Swafford three-putted the first hole for bogey.
“On any given day I know you can get after it,” he said. “I just stuck to my game plan. I gave myself a lot of chances after that.”
With the field chalking up plenty of red numbers, Swafford slowly climbed his way into contention with a trio of birdies at 5, 6 and 7. When he made the turn at 11 under, he was only three off the lead.
“Winning wasn’t crossing my mind at that point. The back nine can be penal with all the water but you can score on it,” he said. “You never know what can happen. This is the craziest game ever.”
It got absolutely nuts among the rolling hills and pine trees.
Swafford rolled in three straight birdies starting at No. 11 and put the locals on alert that something incredible might be on the horizon. Birdie putts of 10 and 8 feet at 16 and 17 got Swafford to 16 under and set up the dramatics.
“When I was standing on 18 tee I told my caddie we needed to get at least one more,” he said. “I knew Luke had some holes left.”
Swafford’s tee shot found the right rough, and he pulled his 7-iron into the bunker.
“It wasn’t that hard of a shot to be honest but it just didn’t cut,” he said. “I was actually relieved when I saw it in a flat area and not up against the lip. I thought I could get it up and down but my caddie said, ‘shoot, you’ve got to hole it.”
Ryan Baucom, a former walk-on football player at North Carolina, turned out to be prophetic when Swafford clanked in the winner.
“Talking about it and doing it are two different things,” he said. “The feeling, that roar. It was surreal.”
Swafford becomes the third Georgia Bulldog to win in the past year, joining former teammates Russell Henley and Harris English. Henley won this event last year with a 12-under 272 score and became only the second amateur ever to win in Nationwide Tour history. English was still an amateur when he won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, last summer. Swafford is the first one of the three to actually collect the winner’s check.
Swafford’s 17-under 267 score is the lowest in the three years the event has been held at the University of Georgia Golf Course. The tournament was held at Jennings Mill Country Club from 2006-09. He is the fifth player in his 20s to win in eight events this year, is the seventh first-time winner on the Nationwide Tour this year, and joins Paul Haley (Chile Classic) as rookie winners this year.
--Luke List collected $48,400 for his runner-up finish, enough to move in front of Andres Gonzales (missed cut) and take over the No. 1 spot on the money list.
--Former Georgia Bulldogs Justin Bolli and Paul Claxton were paired together on Sunday and each carded a 4-under 67. They finished 12 under par and tied for seventh.
--Bubba Dickerson celebrated his 31st birthday with a 4-under 67, and jumped into a tie for 13th place.
--Lee Janzen set a tournament record with a 7-under 29 on the back nine. Janzen’s runner-up finish is his best finish since he was runner-up at The Memorial in 2003 -- a span of 218 PGA Tour starts and two Nationwide Tour starts. Janzen missed the cut at last week’s South Georgia Classic.
--Monday qualifiers David May (tied for 13th) and Brandon Brown (tied for 24th) both finished in the top-25 this week and will advance to earn a berth in the BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greenville, S.C., in two weeks.
--Kevin Foley tied for seventh for the second straight week. Foley, a 2010 Penn State grad, was a Monday qualifier last week at the South Georgia Classic. His tie for seventh in Valdosta put him into this week’s event. His placing here puts him into the field at the BMW Charity Pro-Am.
--The Nationwide Tour will take next week off before resuming play at the BMW Charity Pro-Am. The tournament will be staged at three different courses in the greater Greenville area -- Thornblade Club (host), Greenville CC and Carolina CC -- May 14-20.