Brendon Wilson Seeking To Defend Gasparilla Title In Tampa

  • Wednesday, February 21, 2024
  • Paul Payne
Brendon Wilson
Brendon Wilson

When Brendon Wilson headed to Tampa, Fla. last February to compete in the prestigious Gasparilla Invitational tournament, his modest expectations for the weekend were vastly exceeded.

Wilson, a long-time member at Council Fire Golf Club, was making his first visit to the event that has been one of the top amateur gatherings since 1956. He was hoping for a good showing to back up the Tennessee State Mid-Amateur title he won the previous fall.

But Wilson did more than just hold his own. He won the Gasparilla in record fashion, carding a scorching final-round 64 to win by three shots with a three-day total of 10-under to match the tournament’s scoring mark.

Last year Wilson was able to maintain a low profile. But as he returns to Palma Ceia Country Club for Thursday’s opening round as defending champion, he recognizes with that comes pressure he didn’t experience last year.

“It feels great to be a past champion because of the prestige of the event,” Wilson said. “I always know the field will be loaded in these types of tournaments, so I just try and stick to my game and not get caught up in that.”

Last year Wilson began the final round two shots behind 36-hole leader, but four consecutive birdies beginning on No. 2 jumpstarted his round leading to his remarkable 6-under final loop.

The 54-hole hole individual stroke play championship has a cut after two rounds to the top 60 scores plus ties. The compact Palma Ceia course is known for its lightning-quick greens and closely mown aprons that provide a challenge to the 6,300 layout that plays to a par of 70.

“I like the course a lot,” Wilson said. “If you are smart off the tee, you can get after it. I have been hitting the driver really well so that’s a good feeling going in.”

Wilson, who played collegiately at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, sees some similarities between his game now and at this stage last year.

“Last year it was so early in the season I knew I was rusty, but I surprised myself by winning,” Wilson said. “My game feels exactly the same as last year – rusty but solid. My health is the best it’s been in a long time. I played a lot last week just to try and get into game shape, and I’m excited to defend. Win or lose, I plan to have a great time.”

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Paul Payne can be emailed at paulpayne6249@gmail.com

Paul Payne
Paul Payne
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