By Luke Lombardi
Austin Devereux, a senior on the men’s golf team, won the New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur Championship on Aug. 6, by shooting a four-round score of 282 during the tournament.
Devereux shot a combined seven-under par in the final two rounds, shooting 68 and 69. This was a drastic improvement from the first two days, as Devereux shot a 72 and 73 in those rounds.
Devereux’s victory can be described as surprising, considering he bested opponents from Power Five schools like Rutgers, Penn State and defending national champions Stanford.
“To be honest with you, it doesn’t mean a lot to me … I’ve never been big on ranking myself with other players from different schools,” Devereux said of defeating high-major opponents. “But, I will say, being able to put my name out there and say I’m from Rider University and beat those guys, means a lot to our program and a lot to the Rider family.”
Devereux felt like it was a fair competition since it was an amateur tournament which is similar to college-level play. Head Coach Jason Barry had similar feelings.
“[Devereux] has been playing great since February,” Barry said. “He was consistently shooting low scores in practice. We knew if he played like how he had been in practice that he would have a chance to win.”
Devereux trained a lot heading into the championship.
“[Devereux] and I talk on the phone almost every day. He sends me swing videos three times a week and we set up a weekly practice plan for him to make sure his game is peaking for tournaments,” Barry said.
It wasn’t until late in the tournament that Devereux felt he had a good shot at winning.
“I knew going into the final round, I was one shot back. If I did what I did the day before and lost, I wouldn’t be upset. I also knew if I shot anything in the 60s, I would get it done,” he said. “I pvlayed smart but not too aggressive.”
While Devereux knew he could win, his confidence grew as the last round progressed.
“Basically, we got to the 13th hole and the guy I was playing with chipped in on 13 for birdie. I had about a 40-footer for birdie and when he chipped in, that tied him momentarily for the lead with me,” Devereux said. “When I made that putt, I knew everything was going my way. On the 16th hole, I told myself he isn’t going to make three straight birdies. I didn’t really realize I was going to win until I got on the green in the 18th hole, but the 13th hole was when I knew I had a good shot.”
Barry knew that Devereux had the talent to not only compete, but to win the event.
“[Devereux] and I talked after each round and we had the same game plan throughout the event,” Barry said. “We knew that if he played patiently and didn’t try to force anything that he would have plenty of opportunities. He had chances to win before and came up just short. I told him the night before that when he took the lead the next day to keep his foot on the pedal and never look back. I told him he was the best player in the field and that it was his time. That is exactly what he did.”
The reactions were all of delight. Devereux said, “It honestly took me a solid 24 hours to settle in that I won the event. Connor [Befki] is going to be a sophomore and I play golf with him at the Pine Barrens five days a week and he was the first person to come up to me after. We’re one big family at Rider, and that proves how good of a kid and teammate he is. Unfortunately with COVID-19, a lot more people would have been there without it.”
Devereaux’s coach and teammates were as excited as he was.
“I love [Devereux]. I am so proud of him,” Barry said. “We worked so hard. He deserved it.”