ST. PETERSBURG — On the first playoff hole Sunday afternoon at the 96th annual New Year’s Invitational, defending champion Remi Chartier stood over a 100-yard, downwind approach from a fluffy lie to the first hole’s little green.
Chartier’s wedge nipped the ball just right, landing it 8 feet short of the flag, where it bounded up to within 2 1/2 feet of the hole.
A few minutes later, Chartier rolled in the winning putt and shook hands with runnerup Aidan Kramer, a Georgia Tech redshirt freshman who started the final day four strokes off Chartier’s lead.
“I was fortunate to judge that last (approach) the way I did,” said Chartier, a sophomore at East Tennessee State. “I didn’t think (the ball) ended up being that close because I couldn’t really see it (from the fairway).”
For Chartier — who felt stronger than he did this time last year when he was recovering from a stress fracture in his back — it was another satisfying ending to one of the nation’s most prestigious four-round amateur events at the par-72 St. Petersburg Country Club, where the weather stayed warm and the greens steadily firmed up.
Chartier ended up shooting 68-73-65-73—279 to tie Kramer (69-70-71-69—279) in regulation at 9-under par.
Unlike most players who chose to ride in a cart, Chartier walked the final two days with his father, Scott Chartier, serving as his caddie. Chartier said he got into a groove with his dad and felt calm the whole time, including on the final hole, the par-5 18th, where a 10-foot eagle putt would have sealed the victory outright.
The putt was a slick, downhiller with a 2-foot break. Chartier tapped it but it scooted 4 1/2 feet past, leaving a tough right-to-left birdie bender to tie. Chartier stepped up and rattled it in.
“I knew I had to make (the final putt), so I just did what I had done all week, I just read it as well as I could and stroked it as well as I could,” Chartier said.
As for Chartier’s back, it is a daily a grind to keep it strong and limber.
“The past 365 days the back has been pretty good because I’ve stayed on top of it,” said Chartier, a Naples native. “It’s about keeping my core strong, and keeping with the repetition thing. I have to work out all the time.”
The playoff was the fifth for the highly-competitive tournament since 2010.