Noll maintains lead, wins Mid-Amateur at Berkeley Hills

DULUTH -- After a pair of relatively easy rounds with little resistence from the rest of the field, David Noll Jr. of Dalton suddenly found some stiff competition right there in his own threesome during Sunday's final round of the 31st Annual Georgia Mid-Amateur Championship.

But the 2007 champion and 2011 Georgia State Golf Association player of the year held steady down the stretch and captured his second title in six years.

Noll shot a even-par round of 72 over Berkeley Hills Country Club's 6,694-yard layout to finish with a three-day, 54-hole total of 11-under 205 to win the 2012 title.

That was two strokes better than Cartersville's Chase Jones, who shot a five-under 67 on Sunday and still had a chance as the final group that included Noll, Jones and Jeff Knox played the 18th hole.

"My goal today was to make no bogeys," said Noll, who finished in a fifth-place tie in 2011. "I did that all the way around until I got to the last two holes. And give Chase credit, he played awesome. But I am very happy with the way I played, because I played the way I set out to. I had some birdie chances, but I finally got a couple on 11 and 15 when Chase was getting closer."

But Jones, a former Georgia Southern golfer and 16th-place finisher last year, pulled his tee shot into the trees along the left side of the 18th fairway and his approach shot came up short of the green.

Jones eventually bogied the hole and that took some of the pressure off Noll, who put his tee shot in the fairway and then three-putted for a bogey to finish with the two-shot advantage.

Noll, who went 67-66-72 for a 205 during the 54-hole tournament, now holds both the Georgia Amateur and Georgia Mid-Amateur titles.

Noll will defend his Georgia Amateur title on July 12-15 at Ansley Golf Club-Settindown Creek in Roswell.

Playing conservatively to start play Sunday, Noll had 10 straight pars until he carded a birdie on the 144-yard, par-3 11th hole.

Meanwhile, Jones had three birdies on the front nine and trailed by just four at the turn.

After both players birdied the 552-yard par-five 15th hole, Jones got to within three shots with a birdie at the 371-yard par-4 16th hole.

Noll's bogey at the 368-yard par-4 17th hole left Jones trailing by just two strokes heading to 18.

Jones finished the tournament with a 9-under 207 total with rounds of 71, 69 and 67.

Knox, the 2008 and 2009 champion from Augusta, finished in third place at 211 at 5-under following rounds of 72, 68 and 71.

Knox also finished tied for third last year at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club in Valdosta.Zane Goldthorp of Tucker (70-75-68, 213) and Tevis Upton of Acworth (78-70-65, 213) finished tied for fourth at 3 under.

Upton's bogey-free 65 was the best round of the tournament.

Upton went out in 34 with two birdies and then blistered the second nine with a 31 that included five birdies.

Doug Hanzel of Savannah, the 2004 champion, finished in sixth place at even-par 216 (72-74-70) while Mike Cromer of Peachtree Corners came home in a seventh-place tie with three other golfers at 1-over 217 (74-74-69).

"Putting is the key in this tournament," said Cromer, the Berkeley Hills club champion. "The fairways are in great shape, but the greens are in tournament-shape year-round. They are small greens, but they have a lot of contour to them. The course was a great test for everyone. I had a good round today and ended up with a good finish overall."

Chris Waters of Athens, 2000 champion Greg Kennedy of Duluth and Bob Royak of Alpharetta each finished at 217 to round out the top 10.

Mark Strickland, the 2006 and 2011 champion, shot an even-par 72 on Sunday following rounds of 77-73 and finished in a tie for 19th at 222.

The top 25 finishers -- including Gwinnett residents Dave Poteet of Suwanee and Richie Taylor of Snellville -- automatically qualify for the 2013 championship.

Poteet and Taylor both finished at seven-over 223 and in a tie for 23rd.