The first time Ashton Poole played in the Dogwood Invitational, he didn’t make the cut into the final round. This year’s tournament was an entirely different story. Poole captured the lead after shooting an 8-under 64 on Friday and secured the victory with seven birdies for a 67 on Saturday. He concluded the amateur invitational with a 22-under 266.
“This is amazing,” Poole said after signing his scorecard. “Definitely the best week of my life. … I won a college event in the fall which was great. (I) definitely used that experience today in holding in my emotions and staying patient, but this is by far the biggest (win) of my career.”
Poole wasn’t always on the radar at the Druid Hills Golf Club tournament. Two years ago, he was brought to the attention of Tournament Chairman Edward Toledano by a recommendation from two-time former Dogwood champion and U.S. Amateur champion Vinny Giles.
“To win the same tournament that Vinny won with his great career means so, so much,” Poole said. “It’s truly an honor.”
Poole coasted through most of his final round, recording birdies on the first two holes and maintaining the distance between other competitors in the top five, but Alpharetta native Chandler Eaton got within striking distance with an eagle on the ninth and four birdies on the back nine. A double bogey by Eaton on the 17th widened the gap once more, and the Duke junior finished his tournament at 18 under with a 270.
Poole wasn’t checking scores during his round, but being in first place at the top of the final round didn’t relieve any pressure.
“On the first tee today, I was like, ‘I’m good, I’m good.’ I was fine,” Poole said. Then I teed the ball up, and I stood up and I couldn’t feel my legs. Anybody who says coming down the stretch of a tournament when they’re in the lead that they’re not nervous is lying.”
While he might have been feeling jittery, the champion didn’t let on and “stuck to (his) game plan,” even after a double bogey on the sixth.
Poole also felt that keeping to himself was a key to his success. Unlike other competitors, he played without a caddie and turned down multiple offers for help carrying his bag. After confirming his final shot, he broke his composure to call home with the news.
“I called my dad (after the final round),” Poole said. “He was really excited. He was practically in tears.”
Poole has much to celebrate as he beat out tough competition. S.M. Lee of Dacula was only a stroke behind Eaton at 271 to finish third while Jacob Solomon and William Nottingham tied for fourth. Kennesaw State senior and Suwanee native Jake Fendt tied with Georgia Tech’s Luke Schniederjans for sixth.
With one Dogwood title under his belt, Poole has an opportunity follow in Giles’ footsteps. But he has to repeat his victory if he wants to achieve the same reputation at the Druid Hills Golf Club.