Golf

Leichner ready for pro career after Golfweek Amateur Tour win at Palmetto Dunes

Hunter Leichner envisioned his fall would be spent trying to put himself through the Web.com Tour's qualifying wringer.

Unfortunately, that dream got delayed when he missed an entry deadline.

With that in mind, winning the Golfweek Amateur Tour's grand finale on Sunday turned out to be a pretty decent Plan B.

"I was kind of stuck without a plan, and this worked out," the Kansas native said after capturing the Championship flight in his final amateur event, pulling away for a three-stroke victory at Palmetto Dunes' Robert Trent Jones course.

Leichner's birdie-birdie finish provided the decisive blows in his back-nine duel with Louisiana's Hank Shaheen, providing a springboard from which to launch his pro career.

The Wichita native will turn pro this week to begin playing a minitour in Texas.

"I figured a national championship in an amateur tournament would be a good way to go out," said Leichner, who fashioned a 1-under-par 71 on Sunday.

That followed a closing flourish on Saturday, when he played his final five holes in 3-under to move just one off the lead.

The A flight went to a playoff, where Greensboro, N.C.'s Ken Carlyle prevailed over Tim Rusk on the second extra hole after both carded double bogeys on the first.

Carlyle parred Hampton Hall's 18th on the second replay, capturing his first Golfweek national title.

The event drew more than 850 golfers from across the nation, with winners crowned in five classifications divided by handicaps.

Competition was spread over eight courses in the area, including two at Palmetto Dunes and all four at Hilton Head Plantation.

Leichner, who briefly left the game in 2013 after one year at Evangel College, came to Hilton Head Island after a summer that restored both his form and his confidence.

On two occasions, in fact, he managed to break 60.

The first was a 58 at Buffalo Ridge Springs outside Branson, Mo.

"But that was 10-under on a par-68," he said, "so it really wasn't that big a deal."

Then came a 13-under-par 59 at a member/pro event in Springfield, Mo., three shots better than the previous course record by current PGA Tour pro Patrick Reed.

Armed with those, he found a sponsor to finance his attempt at Web.com Tour qualifying.

However, those plans got scuttled when Leichner's entry fee missed the deadline.

"It was just bad communication," he said with a shrug.

An aunt and uncle instead pointed him toward the Golfweek circuit, where he played in three Arkansas regional events to qualify for the national final.

"I figured there'd be some good connections (I could make) down here," he said.

"So that became the plan after Q-School fell through."

Shaheen (DeQuincy, La.) took a share of the lead into Sunday, but struggled to a 75.

Charlotte's Joe Jaspers, seeking a third consecutive title and sixth overall, was another two shots back after a closing 75.

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