USF Invitational a place for a first-time winner

DADE CITY, Fla. — The monkey is finally off his back.

Justin Dorward, the Louisville Cardinals senior won his first collegiate tournament Tuesday, sharing co-medallist honours with Arkansas State’s Chris Pledger at the USF Invitational.

Dorward’s breakthrough tournament didn’t come easy, as the 7060-yard, par 72 Lake Jovita golf course showed its teeth with gusty winds.

“Toughest part of the day was just finishing,” said Dorward behind the 18th green just after concluding his round. “As the day went on the wind got stronger and stronger.”

The straight-hitting senior finished strong after sleeping on the lead. He started the day off with four straight pars despite the difficult conditions.

He put on a clinic of great ball striking en route to his 2-over, 74 final round. His accuracy off the tee set him up to attack tough hole locations, and was crucial for his 5-under, 211 tournament total.

“You had to hit better shots because all the pins were tucked, they were all on slopes so it made it really difficult,” said the Port St Lucie, Fla., native.

Putting was an issue throughout the day as 50 km/h wind gusts forced players to back off numerous times.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Dorward. “When you looked down at the ball it was shaking, you had to hit it at the right time.”

Dorward’s win was highlighted by a round-changing eagle at the water-guarded par-5 ninth hole. He sunk a breaking 30-footer to put his round back on track after a double bogey on the seventh.

Asked how he felt overcoming the tough conditions and finally getting a taste of the winner’s circle, Dorward was elated and relieved.

“Feels good, it’s been a long time coming.”

The timing of the win was ideal for the 22-year-old, who hopes to break into the professional ranks after his time at Louisville is complete.

“As soon as I’m done with college I’m to going turn pro and spend some time with my coach [Tom Burnett] in Jacksonville perfecting everything and give it a shot on the mini tours,” he said.

Climbing the professional ranks isn’t easy for a golfer but the Cardinals boast an impressive record with alumni players. Coach Crabtree has recruited players such as Adam Hadwin, who currently holds his Nationwide Tour card after an impressive few starts on the PGA Tour in 2011.

“I had the opportunity to play with Hadwin my freshman year, so it’s cool watching him on T.V.” said Dorward.

Hopefully Dorward finds as much success as his former teammate at the next level. Until then, he has his team and winning the Big East Conference championship on his mind.

“We have three more tournaments so hopefully we’ll finish the year off good, we have to win Big East,” said the senior. “We’ve got a lot of talent on the team, we just have to put it all together.”

The Cardinals next tee it up on March 19th at the UCF Invitational in Orlando, Fla.