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Former Lakeside star Emmanuel Kountakis wins Palmetto Amateur

Posted: June 11, 2014 - 12:02am
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Emmanuel Kountakis, a former Lakeside High School star, smiles as he holds his trophy after winning the 2014 Palmetto Amateur championship by four strokes at the Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken.  Photo by Sara Caldwell
Photo by Sara Caldwell
Emmanuel Kountakis, a former Lakeside High School star, smiles as he holds his trophy after winning the 2014 Palmetto Amateur championship by four strokes at the Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken.

AIKEN — About the only drama in Saturday’s final round of the Palmetto Amateur was whether Emmanuel Kountakis would make a bogey.

The former Lakeside High School star eventually did, but it came on the 16th hole when he had matters well in hand. Kountakis fired his second consecutive 3-under-par 67 at Palmetto Golf Club to win by four shots over Billy Kennerly, of Alpharetta, Ga.

The rock-solid Kountakis, who just finished his first season at Mercer University, followed the same game plan as he did all week: play the golf course and not worry about his competitors.

“I wasn’t really worried about where the pins were,” he said. “I was trying to hit the middle of the green, but essentially two putt.”

Kountakis never gave Kennerly or the other challengers much of a chance. He birdied Nos. 2, 8, 10 and 14 before suffering his lone bogey at the long par-3 16th. Even then, Kountakis missed a medium-length par putt after blasting out of the greenside bunker.

Kountakis knew he had command when he saw the leaderboard near the 13th green.

“I knew I had a par-5 hole in front of me and a few holes with iron off tee,” he said.

His caddie, Kyle Olson, also knew his player was in control.

“He basically told me what he was going to do, and I was like, OK,” said Olson, who played with Kountakis one year at Lakeside.

Kennerly began the day one behind Kountakis, but his hopes evaporated when he made three bogeys in his first six holes. He did rally to shoot even-par for the round, but he came away impressed by Kountakis.

“He was really solid,” Kennerly said. “I think he made only one bogey. That’ll do it around here.”

Former North Augusta star Matt NeSmith tied for third along with 36-hole leader Will Long. Both finished at 2-under for 72 holes, seven behind.

Kountakis’ 67 was the low round Saturday, and it was his fourth consecutive round in the 60s. That feat was even more impressive considering he first played Palmetto during a practice round earlier in the week.

“It’s good that I’ve got a couple more years to play this event,” he said.

After he tapped in for par on the final hole, Kountakis was greeted by a large contingent of family and friends.

“It was nice to have the support out here,” he said. “It means a lot.”

The only thing the rest of the elite field has to worry about is Kountakis’ pledge to get better.

“I feel as if I’ve improved a lot in the first year (at Mercer),” he said. “If I keep working on it over the summer, I hope to get better and better.”

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