MISSOULA — Payton Taylor got applause from one fellow golfer at first.
As the Hamilton resident’s tee shot on hole 17 nearly rolled into the cup, Craig Hurlbert clapped his hands and asked, “What’s a guy got to do to get some applause around here?” That prompted the crowd of about 20 golfers and onlookers to give some much-deserved acknowledgment Monday evening at the Missoula Country Club.
Taylor followed up his tee shot with his seventh birdie of the day as he shot a 7-under 64 to win the three-day Barnett Memorial Tournament by four strokes with a 73-68-64—205. His 64 in the final round was one stroke off the tournament record and helped him claw all the way back from six strokes down after the first day.
“The first day I tried using a mallet putter. It didn’t go so well,” Taylor said with a chuckle. “I went back to my old blade putter I’ve used since I was a little kid. I’ve never used a mallet putter. I felt like trying it. That didn’t pay off.”
Without a practice round and having not golfed in about three weeks, he shot a 2-over 73 and was tied for 16th on the opening day. He drained two birdies but settled for two bogeys and one double bogey.
Back with his blade putter on day two, he still came up with two bogeys but carded three birdies and one eagle. He finished with a 3-under 68 and moved into a fifth-place tie, two strokes off the lead.
“The putting led to more confidence,” said Taylor, a former golfer at Liberty University, from where he graduated earlier this month. “I saw a couple putts drop and soon everything else frees up. It really paid off.”
He started the final day with three birdies in his first five holes. He hit just one birdie over the next six holes but was tied with Great Falls’ Ross Bartell heading into the back nine.
He took the lead for good when he sunk a birdie on hole 11. He added birdies on holes 16 and 17.
“Going into today, I knew I was going to have to get out to a good start to try to put some pressure on them,” Taylor said. “It was really nice to start well. I actually cooled off a little bit during the middle of the round. I made a long putt on 11, which really sparked me back up.”
He plans to golf in the Montana State Men’s Amateur golf tournament for the second time and might participate the Fourth of July Tournament in Whitefish.
Before that, he returns to work at 5 a.m. Tuesday, working for his family’s landscaping business. Originally from Florida, his family moved to Hamilton four years ago, the same year he started college.
“For a while I was going to pursue golf,” Taylor said. “I struggled my junior and senior year confidence-wise, so I don’t have any foreseen plans of trying to play pro. I’ll play the State Am this summer and see where it goes if something crazy turns and I keep playing well.”
Bartell finished in second, four strokes behind Taylor with a 69-70-70—209. He was in a three-way tie for first place heading into the final round, and back-to-back bogeys on holes 12 and 13 were too much to overcome.
Jackie Mee won the ladies’ flight with a 14-over 74-80-73—227 to win by nine strokes.