Barnes, a rookie on the NGA/Hooters Tour, shot a course-record 64 in the third round to grab a share of the lead, played the final round with two PGA Tour veterans and birdied the final hole of the Avoca Classic presented by Colony Tire at Scotch Hall Preserve to win his first NGA/Hooters Tour event by one stroke over Chris Wilson on Sunday.
“You can’t draw it up any better,” said Barnes, who won $28,000. “I was playing with two guys (Wilson and Brent Schwarzrock) that have played at the highest level of golf and they weren’t going to give me anything. I knew that shooting par in the final round wasn’t going to cut it, then I birdied the 18th to win. It’s a great feeling.”
Barnes, a former OVC Player of the Year at Austin Peay, started the day tied for the lead with Wilson, but he dropped one shot behind after a front-nine 35. Wilson, who made 26 PGA Tour starts in 2010, shot a 2-under 34 on the outward nine to take sole possession of first.
Both golfers birdied the par-5 11th hole, but Wilson made his first bogey of the day on the 12th hole. Barnes birdied the hole to go from one back to one up, but he bogeyed No. 14 to bring the duo back together at the top of the leaderboard. Barnes made another bogey at No. 16 to give Wilson the outright lead, but Wilson returned the favor with a bogey on his own at No. 17, leaving the duo tied for the lead and setting up a dramatic finish on the par-5 18th hole.
“Holes 14 through 18 are phenomenal holes; there are no easy birdies on those holes,” said Barnes. “I was nervous on 18, but it was a good nervous. My caddie told me, ‘This is what we play for.’ I hit a good drive up the right side and hit a hybrid on the green. I never felt like I had the tournament won until it was over. I actually thought I needed to birdie the 18th to force a playoff, but it was good enough for the win.”
Prior to his breakout win, Barnes’ best finish of the season was a T10 in the Killearn Country Club Classic. While he wasn’t completely surprised by the victory, he was shocked by the timing.
“I didn’t think (the win) would come this soon,” said Barnes. “I played well a few times earlier in the season, and I knew I had what it took to contend in these tournaments. But contending and winning are two different things. Today, playing with those guys, I got to watch them, learn from them and realize that there game’s not a whole lot different than mine. You always tell yourself that you can do it, but this win helped my confidence. Hopefully, I can build from this and win a few more.”
Barnes finished with a 12-under-par 276 total.