ST. PETERSBURG — As Brandon Hagy stood on the 18th hole at St. Petersburg Country Club on Sunday afternoon, he trailed Arnond Vongvanij by one shot in the 85th annual New Year's Invitational.
He wasn't exactly brimming with confidence after losing a six-shot lead on the back nine, including bogey at the par-3 17th hole, his fifth in eight holes.
Hagy, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman at the University of California, settled down. He ripped a 300-yard drive on the par-5, 530-yard 18th, hit a 4-iron from 230 yards to within 20 feet of the flag and drained the putt for eagle and a one-shot win over Vongvanij.
Hagy shot 1-over 73 to finish at 8-under 280 for the four-day tournament. Vongvanij (70) closed at 281, and David Erdy (72) was third at 284.
"I knew (Vongvanij) was going to make par at least," Hagy said. "With his length, birdie would've been a good score for him. An eagle would at least get me in a playoff. I just told myself to hit a solid drive and hit the center of the green and see what happens. The last putt, I read it perfectly."
It was the first time an eagle on the final hole won the tournament. But it didn't look like Hagy would need heroics. He birdied the ninth hole to get to 10 under, six shots ahead of Vongvanij.
Then came birdies on 10, 11 and 14 for Vongvanij, coupled with bogeys on 10, 12, 14 and 15 for Hagy. That created a seven-shot swing in six holes.
Both birdied No. 16 and bogeyed No. 17, setting up the drama on the final hole.
"He beat me with an eagle on the final hole; what else could I do?" Vongvanij said. "I expected him to make that. I saw where he was and knew there was a good chance to make it. I knew I had to make birdie just to force a playoff."
Hagy's 4-iron shot to set up the eagle putt couldn't have come at a better time.
"That was my best swing of the week," Hagy said. "I aimed right of the pin, and the wind took it back in."
Vongvanij had an uphill 40-footer for birdie, which burned the side of the hole before going 3 feet past.
Hagy then hit his eagle putt into the center of the cup.
"I'm really happy to pull it off," Hagy said. "I've had some really close losses the last couple of years in tournaments. It's sweet to win it with an eagle."
Rodney Page can be reached at email@example.com.