Jacob Tilton guessed luck must have played a part during his runaway victory in last month's Region 3-AAAA golf tournament when he beat out peers who had signed Division I letters of intent.
The Evans High School senior likely felt the same way three days later when his first hole-in-one propelled him to medalist honors during a qualifying tournament at Bartram Trail.
The hole-in-one came at Bartram Trail's 14th hole. The pin was in the back and Tilton's 8-iron drive from 170 yards landed on the back fringe before rolling back into the cup.
"It was unbelievable," he said.
Tilton had an amazing week of golf, and might have thought he played over his head. But Knights coach Mike Bibee calls Tilton the most talented golfer he's coached and said that Tilton has the ability to compete at a high level consistently.
At the region tournament, Tilton's 67 was six shots clear of the field, which included a slew of future college golfers, including Clark Palmer (University of North Carolina), Dykes Harbin (University of South Carolina) and Chase Parker (University of Kentucky).
The victories came despite an injury still hampering Tilton. He is recovering from a broken ankle he suffered while playing basketball wo weeks before the region event.
The brace impedes his ability to get to his left side and finish a swing, but it has had little effect on his scoring.
Tilton, who received a scholarship to play golf at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Ga., said he enjoyed outplaying the D-I signees he grew up competing against.
"He may end up being better than all of them," Bibee said. "The natural stuff is there."
Tilton opened the region tournament, a one-day event at Jones Creek, 6-under his first six holes, including an eagle on his fourth hole.
His front-nine 30 gave him a large cushion making the turn, and he kept the driver in the bag and coasted to the win, which qualified him for the Class AAAA state tournament.
The front-nine run exhibited the level of talent Bibee referred to.
Tilton has put together similar birdie binges to win tournaments in the past. He shot 32 on the back nine to win the Mickie Gallagher Junior tournament at Forest Hills in September. He played his final three holes in 4-under to win the inaugural Columbia County Junior Championship in 2007.
"He's a great frontrunner," Bibee said. "When he plays well, he feeds on it and plays even better."
Tilton has played a full slate of junior tournaments every summer since he started high school in hopes of earning a college scholarship.
He had started thinking about playing in college after his brother, Zac, received a scholarship to Kennesaw State in Kennesaw, Ga., when Tilton was a sixth-grader.
Tilton said the highlight of his golf career to this point came last summer when he qualified for the Junior World tournament played at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, which was the site of the 2008 U.S. Open.
Tilton said he doesn't think he'll try for another trip west, but he will try to qualify for the Georgia Amateur and the U.S. Amateur, and will play another full schedule of tournaments in preparation for the start of his college playing career in the fall.
Tilton said the Armstrong Atlantic State will play four tournaments in the fall and six in the spring, including three Division I tournaments.
His goal is to be among the top five players at Armstrong, because they get to travel to out-of-town events.
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