J.D. Hoft saw the dots of paint on the greens to indicate upcoming pin positions during his practice round Friday at Bear Creek Golf Club and knew a difficult day was coming.
And so two shots back entering the final round of the Hilton Head Amateur on Sunday, he thought a steady round would be good enough to defend his title.
Hoft delivered, needing only a 2-over par 74 to finish at 4-over 220 and hold off Chandler McDonald and Seth Rockwell by two shots. The Bluffton resident started with eight consecutive pars as he navigated the tricky Sunday pins and made his lone birdie on the par-5 18th to add some insurance.
"We play a decent amount of rounds here, so you kind of know where to hit it and miss it," said Hoft, who earned a berth in the 2015 Players Amateur and a $450 gift certificate to the Bear Creek pro shop with his victory. "...You hit it in the middle of any of these greens, they're small enough where you'll have a decent shot at it."
McDonald, a USC Beaufort golfer and Greenville native, played Bear Creek for the first time Wednesday after signing up for the Hilton Head Island Amateur Golf Association this week. He posted the round of the tournament, a 3-under 69 on his second 18 on Saturday, but said he did not hit the ball well enough Sunday to win.
McDonald and Seth Rockwell, who entered the final round tied for the lead at 144, played in the final group Sunday and faded with matching 78s.
"Just driving out here thinking about it, I knew 75 would have been OK," McDonald said. "You think 75 at another course is not good playing, but I thought that would have been good enough to win it today. It was tough, I just didn't hit the ball great."
HHIAGA director Bob Collar wanted the course tougher the final day. The tees were moved back on a couple of holes and pins hidden or cut in front on many greens. He heard some complaints but brushed them off.
"You play the Amateur to get the best player," Collar said. "We did."
Hoft led early Saturday after opening with a 1-under 71, scraping it around but closing with an eagle. He missed out on several birdie chances early during his second-round 75, opening the door for the newcomers.
He went to work Sunday, not making a bogey until his drive found a fairway bunker on the ninth. Rockwell and McDonald both found the hazard off the tee on the 17th, all but ensuring Hoft's victory.
His closed with birdie after going for the par-5 in two and getting up-and-down from an awkward stance in the greenside bunker.
The putt was true. The Bluffton resident thanked the Bear Creek staff and had high praise for the course conditions.
"It's stood the test of time," Hoft said. "The greens -- you miss a putt, it's your fault. They're that good."
Follow assistant sports editor Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
HHIAGA Amateur Championship
at Bear Creek Golf Club
J.D. Hoft 71-75-74-220
Chandler McDonald 75-69-78-222
Seth Rockwell 72-72-78-222
Tate Hoisington 73-76-74-223
Jonathan Phillips 74-71-80-225
Trent Hoisington 76-74-77-227
Tyler Williams 74-76-77-227
John Patterson 76-76-76-228
Gerry Pascale 74-75-80-229
Jud Milan 73-78-78-229
Brian Arpaia 74-71-145
Bryant Turner 75-71-146
Geoff Bickerton 76-71-147
Steve Henry 74-74-148
Grady Winstead 79-72-151
x-Kevin Arnold 81-73-154
Tom Cunneff 75-79-154
Keith Guise 73-69-142
Eric Dollenerg 69-74-143