Scott Vincent watched firsthand an opportunity wasted and another unfold.
As Garrett Rank's playing partner Sunday for the final round of the Players Amateur, Vincent knew he needed some help to catch the Canadian, who started the day with a six-shot lead. When Rank imploded on No. 7, Vincent had his opening, though it wasn't without some empathy.
Vincent overtook Rank and held off defending champion Hunter Stewart with a final-round 68. The Virginia Tech Hokie finished 11-under-par 277 to win by a shot and earn an exemption into the 2015 RBC Heritage presented by Boeing.
Rank, who was 13 under and six shots clear of the field to start the day, made a quadruple-bogey 8 on the par-4 seventh. The 26-year-old drove it out of bounds by only a couple yards and then needed four putts to escape the hole.
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"It was just tough to watch," said Vincent, who made a birdie on the hole to grab a share of the lead. "He was just going backwards and forwards. I felt so sorry for him."
Rank thought he got lucky after his drive with a good lie after his ball had struck a tree, but the initial white stake marking out of bounds extended to the water hazard well inside the treeline. Rank had to play his provisional ball from the fairway.
"I should have gotten out of there with a six," he said. "I just compounded it with a four-putt."
Rank two days earlier shot a course-record 62 to grab a firm hold of one of the country's top amateur events. But it was his only round in the 60s.
The big number Sunday brought several players into the picture on the back nine.
Former Hilton Head Island High School teacher Todd White was only one shot off the lead after a birdie at No. 15, but he played the final three holes 1 over. White finished tied for sixth, his fifth top-10 here.
The four-shot margin was the closest the 46-year-old has come to victory and a spot in the Heritage.
"You're so into the moment and focused on what you're trying to do, the benefits of your play really don't come into your mind," White said. "You're just trying to execute golf shots."
Stewart was trying to become the first repeat champion and received the help he needed to contend on Sunday. He attacked the par-5s how he had wanted all week, with eagles on No. 6 and No. 12.
The Vanderbilt golfer played his final seven holes at 5 under, but a slow start kept him from repeating.
"It felt good to make a stab at it, but Scott played some really good golf," Stewart said.
Vincent, who will be a senior at Virginia Tech in the fall, has played three times in the Zimbabwe Open, his only previous experience in a professional event. He won three times this past college season and was named the program's first first-team All-American.
Virginia Tech was Vincent's first extended experience in the United States. He grew up playing golf in Zimbabwe and learning the game from instructor Roger Baylis.
Hokies coaches recruited him after watching him compete in the Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship in Florida and signed the two-time Zimbabwe National Amateur champion.
Vincent said he doesn't think he would have received the exposure, while playing for his country's under-16 team at age 14, had he grown up anywhere else. He had plotted a methodical path for his golf career, which continues with an exemption into next month's U.S. Amateur, when his mother will visit the United States for the first time.
"I've still got a lot of learning to do," Vincent said. "There are definitely a few things I need to get better at. It's moving the right direction."
Follow assistant sports editor Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
2014 PLAYERS AMATEUR
Sunday at Berkeley Hall's South course, Bluffton
1 Scott Vincent 71-70-68-68--277
T2 Hunter Stewart 69-69-71-69--278
T2 Garrett Rank 71-62-70-75--278
4 Zachary Olsen 73-70-66-70--279
5 Jack Maguire 74-71-64-71--280
T6 Geoff Drakeford 68-78-66-69--281
T6 Todd White 73-68-70-70--281
8 Adam Svensson 73-68-70-71--282
T9 Gavin Hall 70-74-70-69--283
T9 Jimmy Beck 72-71-68-72--283
T9 Ryan Ruffels 70-72-69-72--283
T12 David Snyder 70-72-73-69--284
T12 Nicholas Reach 69-70-72-73--284
T12 Ryan Benton 72-68-71-73--284
T12 Maverick McNealy 69-71-71-73--284
T12 Austen Truslow 75-65-70-74--284
T12 Zander Lombard 75-68-67-74--284
T18 Hank Lebioda 74-70-72-69--285
T18 Eric Brady 74-72-66-73--285
T18 Adam Schenk 72-72-67-74--285
T21 Carson Jacobs 76-71-71-68--286
T21 Vincent Whaley 71-71-72-72--286
T21 Matthew NeSmith 68-70-72-76--286
T24 Andrew Orischak 68-75-72-72--287
T24 Keenan Huskey 73-73-69-72--287
T24 Tae Koh 68-77-69-73--287
T24 M.J. Maguire 71-72-70-74--287
T28 Antonio Murdaca 77-72-67-72--288
T28 Todd Mitchell 77-68-70-73--288
T28 Michael Cromie 70-73-71-74--288
T28 Jake Mondy 73-73-67-75--288
T32 Simon Viitakangas 74-71-71-73--289
T32 Grayson Murray 76-72-68-73--289
T32 JJ Grey 71-75-68-75--289
T32 Nicholas Palladino 69-72-72-76--289
36 Alberto Sanchez 75-73-69-73--290
T37 Eric Sugimoto 71-74-73-74--292
T37 Keith Mitchell 74-74-70-74--292
T37 Ben Eccles 69-75-73-75--292
T40 Vaughan McCall 73-74-70-76--293
T40 Cody Proveaux 76-66-75-76--293
42 Matt Hansen 74-71-73-76--294
43 Jordan Janico 73-73-72-83--301