Former Tech golfer receives national attention

PGA Tour golfer and former Tennessee Tech All-American Scott Stallings finished in a three-way tie for second place at last weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California.

Stallings entered the tournament Thursday as the defending champion after winning the open in 2014. The former Golden Eagle attempted to become the first repeat winner of the Open since Tiger Woods’ four-straight wins from 2005 to 2008. His chances for a repeat appeared slim early on, though, after falling to a three-consecutive-bogey, 3-over stretch on the North Course during the tournament’s first day of play. Stallings then birdied three of his last five holes to complete the first round at 2-under.

The end of the second round was not as kind to Stallings as the end of the first. After a pair of birdies in the front nine, he finished 2-under but completed the back nine with a trio of bogeys and an even score for the round.

Down but not out, the Tech alum inched his way back into the leaderboard after a two-birdie front nine in the third round. Also adding an eagle on the sixth hole, Stallings carried a 4-under score into the back nine, which he kept after an even finish for the third round.

Key to Stallings’ successful third round comeback attempt was his birdie on the par-5 13th hole. After hitting the 116-yard approach shot to the top of the putting green, the ball rolled back, giving Stallings the opportunity to sink a 9-foot putt for birdie. On the following hole, he dropped another birdie, helping him to a 4-under round total. He entered the final round in a three-way tie for the lead at 68.

The final round gave the former Tech golfer the chance he needed for a potential repeat. Despite hitting a bogey on the first hole, Stallings dropped a pair of birdies at the end of the front nine to carry a 1-under score into the final nine holes.

After sinking birdies in the previous two rounds on the 13th hole, the often-unlucky number was anything but for the Tech graduate as he chipped in a 32-foot roll for eagle on the par-5 13th hole of the final round. Finishing at par in each of the final five holes, Stallings etched his way into a four-way tie for the lead.

Just like his 2014 finish, Stallings ended regulation with the lowest score through four rounds. Unlike last year’s open win, however, the golfer entered a four-man playoff with Jason Day, J.B. Holmes and Harris English. After parring on the first playoff hole, Stallings was eliminated, along with English. On the second hole, Jason Day edged Holmes after shooting a par-3 and took the win.

An All-American golfer in 2006 and a two-time OVC Player of the Year, Stallings rounded out a prolific career at Tech before going pro in the summer of 2007. While in Cookeville, Stallings golfed alongside teammate and current head coach of the Tech men’s and women’s golf teams, Polk Brown. Brown, a fifth year senior during Stallings’ junior year, said he’s enjoyed keeping up with his former teammate’s professional journey.

“It’s been a pretty remarkable ride just to see how far he has come,” said Brown. “With all the hard work he has put in to pay off, it’s been really great to see. I’m super proud of the guy. He’s earned everything he’s got.”

In his fifth year competing in the PGA Tour, Stallings has added three wins: The Greenbrier Classic in 2011, the True South Classic in 2012 and the Farmers Insurance Open in 2014. Tying for second after last weekend’s playoff, the golfer took home $470,400 in winnings, increasing his total on the year to $796,156.   

"The money, that’s nice and everything, but (Scott) would tell you that it’s all about the wins,” said Brown. “He’s been able to play in every major – that’s a big deal. I’ve been able to watch him at the Masters twice. To see somebody you became very close with and know on a personal level, to see the success he’s had, that’s been the most impressive thing.”

On top of Stallings’ money and wins, Brown added that his former teammate’s impressive performance puts him with even more impressive competition.

“The elite company he’s put himself in – I mean he’s sitting on the couch with Jason Day, waiting to see how J.B. Holmes does, to see if they’re going to the playoff. I mean how cool is that?”

Also in elite company is Stallings’ FedExCup ranking, which now places him above PGA Tour greats Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Tiger Woods. Through seven events, the former Golden Eagle now ranks 24th in the 2015 standings with 386 total cup points.

Stallings’ pursuit to the top rolls on as he prepares for the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. The tournament is set for the weekend of Feb. 19-22.