Seth Sweet redeems first-day stumble to capture Hilton Head Open

Seth Sweet tees of from No. 1 during the last round of the 42nd Annual Hilton Head Open at Moss Creek Golf Club on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016.
Seth Sweet tees of from No. 1 during the last round of the 42nd Annual Hilton Head Open at Moss Creek Golf Club on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016.

A downpour-aided double bogey left Seth Sweet in something of a sour mood as he departed from his opening round at the Hilton Head Open. Nor was he completely over it when he came back to Moss Creek Golf Club on Sunday.

“I was a little mad going to the first tee there,” he said.

The Hilton Head Island golfer managed to channel it properly, though, using four early birdies to make up lost ground in storming to a one-shot victory that he hopes will be an effective springboard to a waiting professional career.

“I kind of snuck up on them,” said Sweet, who began the day two shots off David Rogers’ lead but found himself a little under the radar as he fashioned his 3-under-par 69 one group ahead of the leaders.

Even after a delay for lightning in the area, no one in the final group was aware that Sweet had made the turn in 4-under 32 and had pushed his way to the front. Rogers, Matt O’Quinn and Mark Tomedolskey finally got the update from a spectator coming off the 16th green.

“That’s kind of the tough part about it, with no leaderboards,” said Rogers, teaching professional at the Golf Club at Indigo Run and the 2013 runner-up.

Even so, both Rogers and O’Quinn faced birdie putts at the par-3 17th that would have allowed them to pull even. Rogers watched his downhill 10-footer break off just short of the hole and roll over the cup’s left edge. O’Quinn burned the right edge, watching his attempt fail to take the break he read.

“I’m going to be thinking about that one for a while,” said O’Quinn, who captured the Beaufort City Championship last month. “You want that putt, and I just hit it a little too hard. It didn’t take the break, and that was that.”

Rogers said: “We knew those putts were important. Then the 18th isn’t really a birdieable hole, but I gave myself a chance.”

Rogers hit the middle of the green at the par-4 18th, though that still left him with a 40-foot downhill putt to force a playoff. Though he had the proper pace, he didn’t read enough break into his attempt.

O’Quinn might have had an even more enticing chance as he chipped from just off the putting surface. His attempt checked up and began tracking toward the hole — only to stop 3 feet short of the flagstick.

“I made a run at it,” said O’Quinn, who fell as many as four shots off the pace on the back nine before an eagle at the par-5 14th. His driver off the deck nearly went down for a double eagle, climbing onto the green and passing the flagstick by mere inches.

Sweet also had a chip-in for one of his early birdies, and might have cruised to victory except for a double bogey at No. 14. He recovered, though, with a 15-foot birdie two holes later.

“I kind of knew at that point that I was probably going to win,” he said.

He didn’t make it easy, watching a short par save at No. 17 take a hard lipout. That left him with a one-shot advantage heading to No. 18, where disaster had struck a day earlier. Playing through the rain, Sweet’s hands slipped on his tee shot, sending his ball hooking into the water.

This time, Sweet piped his drive down the middle for what turned out to be a clinching par.

“Once I put it down the middle, I kind of knew I was going to be OK,” said Sweet, who graduated from Old Dominion last spring and will soon move to South Florida to play its minitours.

“This is my last amateur event, so it’s good to be able go out on top. I beat a good field of players, some of the best down here, so it’s huge for me. It’s awesome.”

John Patterson, the Open’s three-time defending champion, began the day three shots off the lead but saw his chances derailed when he tweaked his neck on the practice tee. He gutted through a 78, leaving him in a tie for 10th.