Gotterup Starts, Finishes Strong At Myrtle Beach Classic

Give a talented PGA Tour player – even a first-year competitor like, say, Chris Gotterup – a four-shot lead with 18 holes to play, and chances are the final result will be as inevitable as golf fans enjoying seafood buffets on the Grand Strand.

That’s true, of course, when a player is a seasoned PGA Tour veteran. But that was also the story of Sunday’s Myrtle Beach Classic at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, as the 24-year-old New Jersey native, former All-American and NCAA player of the year at Oklahoma, blew away the field with a closing 4-under 67 to finish a robust 22-under.

Gotterup easily outdistanced runners-up Davis Thompson and Alister Docherty, both at 16-under. Six players, including first-round co-leader Beau Hossler and two of Gotterup’s closest pursuers, Argentina’s Jorge Campillo and South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen, tied for fourth at 15-under.

On Friday, after Gotterup had taken a one-shot lead over Robert MacIntyre on the strength of his 7-under par 64, he tried to explain the difference (per the PGA Tour) between a “first-year player” – his designation, since he played eight Tour events in 2022 – and a Tour “rookie.” He said he understood the technical part, but added with a laugh, “I feel like a rookie.”
And now, with his first career win under his belt?

“Yeah, I still feel like a rookie, but now I feel like I belong at a high level,” Gotterup said. “Not that I didn’t before, but now I have the accolades to prove it. This is a big notch on my belt; I’m in ‘the circle’ now.

“I still have a lot of room to improve, which is the fun part about it. Obviously, I played great and grinded it out, but me and (caddie) AJ (Montecinos), we were talking about things we can get better at while we’re playing, which is the fun part.”

Gotterup’s gaping six-shot margin of victory is the largest of the 2024 PGA Tour season, topping Scottie Scheffler’s five-shot win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. But he gave a handful of pursuers hope when he bogeyed his first two holes Sunday, trimming his lead to two.

But that turned out to be a big tease. Gotterup, who three-putted the first and second holes, rebounded from that start with a birdie-eagle-birdie blitz on holes 3-5. That boosted his score from 16-under to 20-under, and he never let any of his challengers closer than (that number again) two shots the rest of the way.

“That first (bogey) was probably nerves,” he said. “I don’t know, I didn’t really feel that bad. The second hole, it was like a 75-footer up and over (a hill) into the wind. The odds weren’t in my favor on that one. Yeah, that bothered me a little bit.
“But then at the third hole, I hit (his approach) to four feet. Once I got going, it was definitely more ‘calm-ish.’ (Caddie) AJ said, ‘You good?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I feel fine.’ And we started going along as usual.”

Indeed, for the bulk of Sunday’s round, the only player likely to upend Gotterup’s march to the title and $720,000 winner’s purse was Gotterup himself.

His lead was back to four shots after nine holes, and though Thompson mounted the only serious late challenge – he sank a 7-foot birdie putt at the 13th, trimming the leader’s margin to two shots after Gotterup bogeyed the 11th – the moment didn’t last.

Two holes later, Thompson chunked his approach to the par-5 15th hole and made an ugly bogey, while Gotterup was making birdie at the 13th with a chip to 4 feet, pushing his cushion back to four shots.

“I knew I was going to have to go pretty low today,” Thompson said. “I played good. I didn’t play great. I felt like I hit a lot of quality iron shots. (I) just didn’t make as many putts as I would like.”
Then at the 14th hole, Gotterup turned his shaky drive into the right trees into a spectacular par. He punched out to the opposite rough, hit his third shot to 10 feet and drained the putt. He then effectively put the title away when he birdied the par-5 15th with two putts from 16 feet, and added another birdie at the 16th to get to 22-under par.

“I think that’s the hard part,” Gotterup said. “You know guys behind you are going to play well, and four shots can vanish in two holes or one. (But) closing out is something I’ve done well in my amateur and college career. (Making birdie) at 18, I finished like I’m supposed to finish.”
That final birdie putt of 11 feet, with his parents and younger brother watching from behind the green, merely added a flourish to the finish. His family had flown in from New Jersey to witness his big day.

“I called my mom yesterday and told her, ‘Stay at home, we’re all fine here,’” Gotterup said with a grin. “But she said, ‘We’re coming.’” He laughed again. “I had ordered flowers for Mother’s Day, but they didn’t get here. So she’ll get those when she gets home.”

Gotterup’s victory means several big prizes for him, too, notably a berth in next week’s PGA Championship in Louisville and a two-year exemption into Tour events. “I think the biggest thing is the two years,” he said. “There’s no stress on my life for two years. When I started the year, there were some events I wasn’t going to get in, but now I don’t have to worry and can go out and focus on (playing well).”

He’s already been doing that this year after earning his PGA Tour card via last year’s Korn Ferry Tour. To win in less than two years marks Gotterup as a potential rising star.

“I had a chance at the (2022) John Deere and at (this year’s) Puerto Rico Open, but I was in the mix,” he said. “As an amateur and in college, I’ve always gone about my business and waited for my opportunity. I just figured if I keep working hard, my time will come.”

This was his time, for sure.

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