Blatt rides 9 birdies to Dixie Amateur title

Larry Blatt of Chicago, Ill., fired a final-round 5-under 67 — the low round of the tournament — to come from three shots back and win the Dixie Amateur Championship at Eagle Trace Golf Club in Coral Springs, Fla.

Blatt put together nine birdies, including five in a row in the middle of his round, to pull ahead of third-round leader Luke Wells (Springfield, Ohio) and finish off a two-shot victory at 5-under-par 283.

Blatt, 33, played in the NCAA Championships at the University of Illinois after starting his collegiate career at Ole Miss. For the last 12 years he has been a derivatives trader in Chicago, and rededicated himself to competitive golf a couple of years ago.

Starting birdie-birdie (as he did on Saturday as well), Blatt quickly pulled even with Wells before handing the lead back to the Butler University sophomore with a bogey at the 4th and a double on the par-3 7th.

Then came the birdie streak, propelled by a tough escape to stop the bleeding.

“Saving par on 8 was key for me,” said Blatt to “My short game had been fantastic all week and getting a tough up-and-down over the bunker to a tight pin really put me in a good spot mentally to move forward.”

Five birdies in a row later, he was in the lead.

“I was just in the zone after that up-and-down on 8.”

He ran into trouble off the tee on the par-4 16th, blocking it to the right and eventually facing an 8-footer for bogey. He rolled the putt in, staying ahead of Wells who also bogeyed.

When Blatt proceeded to knock a 6-iron to 15 feet on the par-3 17th and convert that putt as well, he was two up and on his way to the win.

“I’m just really pumped and encouraged by my play after making double on 7”, said Blatt. “I’ve put a lot of work into the mental aspect of the game, and it really payed off for me today.”

Wells closed with an even-par 72 and a 3-under total, two shots back.

Former Florida Southern player Marc France was the only other player under par, finishing at 2 under after a 69. David Harrison of UTSA and West Virginia commit Max Green tied for fourth at 2 over.

The defending champion Michael Barnard of MTSU shot 70 to pull into a 6th-place tie at 3 over par.

Blatt hopes to ride his Dixie win to bigger and better things, perhaps chasing a long deferred dream.

“Ideally I can take this win as a stepping stone to a professional career,” he said. “That’s my ultimate goal now.”