The support of a handful of old high school buddies, the calming influence of a veteran caddie and timely putting were exactly what Harris English needed to pull out his first PGA Tour victory.
English won the St. Jude Classic on Sunday, birdieing two of the final three holes to hold off Phil Mickelson and Scott Stallings by two strokes.
"I had probably 10 high school friends out there today," English said. "And I know that if I make a birdie or a bogey, they're probably going to be the same and they're rooting me on. I was just really relaxed out there today. Bogeyed eight and nine, which was tough. But I knew if I kept it together on the back nine, I could make a run at the thing."
The 23-year-old former Georgia star in his second year on tour survived a final round where he had six birdies and five bogeys. He finished with a 1-under 69 for a 12-under 268 total to get the victory in the same state where he helped Baylor in Chattanooga win four Tennessee high school golf titles.
English said caddie Brian Smith also helped him refocus as he made the turn.
"I really didn't think I'd be in this seat right here coming off 9," English said. "I thought I kind of made some really dumb bogeys on eight, nine and kind of shot myself out of the tournament. But Smitty was saying, 'Hey let's go beat this back nine. Let's get back under par for the tournament for the day, and let's get after it.' So it was almost pedal to the metal."
English got four of his birdies on the back nine and saw on No. 14 that he was the lead at 10 under. He made a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to tie Stallings for the lead, but Stallings bogeyed No. 18 to give English the lead to himself. English made a 17-foot birdie putt on No. 17, and overcame shaking hands as he two-putted No. 18 to pick up the winner's check of $1,026,000.
"It's quite an unbelievable feeling," English said.