A Ponte Vedra Beach invasion of the 104th Western Junior Championship almost resulted in the championship trophy coming to the First Coast.
Camden Smith, a recent transfer to Ponte Vedra High School, shot 66 in the final round on Thursday at the Naperville (Ill.) Country Club to force a playoff with Eduardo Derbez Torres of Monterrey, Mexico. But Torres got up-and-down for birdie at the par-5 18th, the first hole of sudden death, and defeated Smith after a 36-hole final day.
Dominant day at the King & Bear: Elizabeth Kondal cruises to record eight-shot victory in First Coast Women’s Amateur
Big changes at UNF: Former touring professional Dan Olsen overseeing renovation at UNF Golf Complex
Both players finished at 8-under-par 280.
Smith, who will transfer to Ponte Vedra High from Orlando Circle Christian, began the final round eight shots behind Torres, who was cruising at 10-under through 54 holes, with a four-shot lead over William Love of Atlanta. Starting his round nearly two hours before Torres, Smith birdied four of his first eight holes, then added three more at Nos. 12, 14 and 16.
His momentum was checked when he hit his tee shot into the water at the par-3 17th, but he saved bogey on a 20-foot putt and parred the last. Torres (74) then fell into a tie for the lead, with most of the damage coming on double bogeys at Nos. 10 and 16.
However, he made an 8-foot par putt on No. 18 to get into the playoff, then became the first player from Mexico to win the nation’s oldest junior tournament.
Smith, who has verbally committed to Mississippi State, said he had no choice but to let it fly.
“I know I’m playing against the best competition in the country, so I knew I had to take it low,” he told the tournament’s website reporter. “I got it going and didn’t really think about it.”
The last time a playoff was needed at the Wester Junior also involved a First Coast resident. Kevin Yu beat Carl Yuan a Korn Ferry Tour member who has earned enough points to get his PGA Tour card for next season, in 2015.
Also playing in the tournament were Jackson Byrd of St. Simons Island, Ga., (tie for 16th, 1-under 287), Brock Blais of Ponte Vedra (tie for 23rd, 1-over 289) and 14-year-old Phillip Dunham of Ponte Vedra (tie for 31st, 4-over 292), who had a first-round 66 that started when he almost aced the par-3 10th hole on his first swing of the tournament.
“It kind of hit the pin at perfect pace, but kind of shot off to the right,” Dunham told the Western Junior website. “But can’t be mad with a birdie on your first hole.”
Changes coming at resorts
Disney World is giving its Magnolia Course a facelift.
Streamsong is adding a walking course, continuing a nationwide trend of shorter tracks with alternatives to nine or 18 holes.
Both resorts announced their plans this week.
The Magnolia Course, designed by Joe Lee was the anchor track for Disney’s PGA Tour event (1971-2012), won by players such as World Golf Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, Larry Nelson, Raymond Floyd, Payne Stewart and Lanny Wadkins as well as First Coast natives David Duval and Woody Blackburn (the latter playing with Billy Kratzert of Ponte Vedra when it was a team event).
under architect Ken Baker, Lee’s original design will undergo extensive changes that include turning No. 14 from a par-5 to a par-4, No. 15 from a par-3 to a par-5, No. 16 remaining a par-4 but shifting location and becoming a dogleg left and No. 17 from a par-4 to a par-3.
The course closed in May to begin the renovations but the Palm, Oak Trail and Lake Buena Vista courses remain open.
Streamsong will add a 3,000-yard course to its stable of three full-length tracks, with Coree-Crenshaw serving as the architects.
Its name, “The Chain,” comes from the remnants of chains that were used to hold dragline buckets in place when the land was used as a phosphate mine.
The holes range in distance from 90 to 300 yards, with six-, 12- and 18-hole loops.
Golf charities get funding
Two First Coast junior golf organizations, First Tee-North Florida and the Moore-Myers Children’s Fund, are among 81 nationwide that will share in $750,000 in funding from a grant through “Make Golf Your Thing,” and industry commitment to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the sport.
Launched last year, Make Golf Your Thing has provided 155 grants to 110 organizations, totaling more than $1 million overall.
The program was established to support organizations dedicated to increasing participation among golf’s underrepresented populations including Black, Latino, Asian, Indigenous communities, women, LGBTQI+ individuals, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.
Funding for the grant program is being administered by the American Golf Industry Coalition, a partnership among golf’s leading organizations to promote and advocate for the collective interests of the sport and a division of the World Golf Foundation in St. Augustine.
For additional information, visit makegolfyourthing.org and golfcoalition.org.
Schroeder reaches round of 16
Kaitlyn Schroeder of Jacksonville won two matches in the 93rd Florida Amateur last week at the Streamsong Resort — where she won the first of her two Florida Junior Girls titles in 2019.
Schroeder, who tied for 11th in the stroke-play qualifying at even-par 144, defeated two players from Bradenton, Rachel Carlson 3 and 2 and Morgan Baxendale in 22 holes. she lost to Casey Weidenfeld 1-up in the third round.
Elizabeth Kondal of St. Augustine, who will be a sophomore at Rollins College in the fall, also reached match play after finishing tied for 38th in stroke play at 5-over 149. She lost her opening match 4 and 3 to Addison Klonowski of Naples.
Bailey Shoemaker of Dade City, Schroeder’s teammate in April when the two reached the championship match of the US Women’s Four-Ball, became the first junior player to win the Florida Women’s Amateur when she defeated Masie Elephants of Palm Beach Gardens 3 and 2. Shoemaker, a verbal commit to USC, beat Weidenfeld 3 and 1 in the semifinals.
UNF signs transfer
The University of North Florida women’s golf team marked a program milestone last week: the Ospreys signed a player from the West Coast.
Anastacia Johnson of Tacoma, Wash. she will transfer to UNF from Texas A & M-Corpus Christi, where she has six top-25 finishes in eight tournaments, including three top-10s, as a freshman in 2022.
Johnson won the Islander Classic and capped the season by finishing 16th in the Southland Conference tournament. She was a three-time MVP and three-time tournament medalist in her high school conference.