LAKE LANIER ISLANDS — John Hopper of Eatonton fired a 4-under-par 68 in the final round to successfully defend his title at the Georgia Public Links Championship on Sunday.
Finishing seven strokes behind Hopper was Todd Eaker of Lawrenceville to earn runner-up honors. The 25th annual competition has been played at Legacy on Lanier, September 14-15.
Hopper's 68 in the final round was the only score in the Championship flight turned in in red numbers over the 36-hole event, and one of just two scores in the overall competition. The first flight winner, Justin Holder of Auburn, posted a 69 also in the final round. On his front nine, Hopper carded birdies on holes one, three, five, six and eight, with a bogey on nine, to make the turn at 3-under. Starting the back side of the course with a five stroke lead for the tournament, Hopper posted a steady even-par nine holes with a birdie on 13 and a bogey on 17.
Throughout the two-day competition, Eaker notched eight birdies, 19 pars, eight bogeys and one double-bogey en route to his 4-over-par 148 (73-75). One stroke behind Eaker was Jackson Bishop of Gainesville in third at 5-over-par 149 (73-76). Three players tied for fourth at 6-over-par 150, including Justin Cochran of Gainesville (77-73), Alp Kupcuoglu of Acworth (73-77) and first-round leader Beau Minkley of Atlanta (72-78). Rob VanGorder, Jr., of Acworth (77-74) and two-time Public Links winner Billy Mitchell of Roswell (76-75) tied for seventh at 7-over-par 151. Ryan Morley-Stockton of Woodstock finished ninth at 8-over-par 152 (77-75) and Lawson King of Gainesville finished tenth at 10-over-par 154 (79-75).
Hopper is the fourth player in the 25-year history of the Georgia Public Links Championship to win back-to-back titles. Billy Mitchell of Roswell won in 2010 and 2011 at BridgeMill Athletic Club in Canton and Towne Lake Hills Golf Club in Woodstock, respectively. Brent Sizemore of Calhoun went back-to-back in 1998 at Stonebridge Golf Club in Rome and 1999 at Chicopee Woods Golf Club in Gainesville. Back in 1994 and 1995, David Potts of Commerce won at Lakeside Golf Club in Atlanta and River's Edge Golf Club in Fayetteville, respectively.
The 25-year-old Eatonton native's first Public Links title happened last year at Cobblestone Golf Course in Acworth. At that event, Hopper played his final round in the next-to-last group of the day and finished with a 140 36-hole total, and had to wait and see what would happen with the last group still on the golf course. Mitchell missed his putt for par on the 18th hole to finish at 1-over for the day, 1-under for the tournament, giving Hopper the victory.
Holder of Auburn won the first flight at 9-over-par 153 (84-69). In flight two, David Williams of Atlanta posted a 23-over-par 167 (87-80) to top his division. Duluth's David Sheiman won the third flight at 22-over-par 166 (81-85).