(AUSTIN, TX | DEC 28-30) If there has been a theme for Winter golf on the Texas Junior Golf Tour this year, it has to be “pleasant.” In a state where weather in November-February is as difficult to predict as the winning lottery numbers, Mother Nature has been surprisingly kind and gentle to junior golfers in Texas this winter, blessing them with warmer-than-normal temperatures in late November and early December.
Things were no different at the final tournament of the year, the annual Barton Creek Holiday Classic. While temperatures were not quite as warm – high 40s to low 60s across the three days – winds were almost non-existent, and the harshness of winter was no where to be seen. At the event, 150 of the state’s top male and female junior golfers competed across two golf courses, with perfect weather and record-breaking scores.
In the Girls 11-18 division, played this year at the Palmer Lakeside course at Barton Creek (due to construction on the Foothills Course), scores were good, despite the new, difficult venue. After the first round, Allen’s Taylor Mieras held a one shot lead over Olivia Mitchell from Plano and Karlee Nichols from San Antonio. Mieras struggled a bit in the middle of the round, but closed her day with two straight birdies for an opening 2-over-par 73. In all, 15 players shot 80 or better in Round 1, and more than half the field was within 10 shots of the lead to start the second round.
On Day 2, Mitchell and Buffalo Grove, Ill. senior Haeri Lee separated themselves from the rest of the field, shooting 75 and 74, respectively, to stand tied for the lead heading into the final round, four shots clear of the field. In third place were Austin’s Jensen Jalufka, Plano’s Ellie Roth, Magnolia’s Halle Whitney and Mieras, all four strokes behind the leaders.
The final round was a nail-bitter to start, with Mitchell, Lee and Jalufka in the final group. After nine holes, Mitchell and Lee were still tied, with Jalufka still four shots back. Mitchell then went on a tear, carding birdies on the par-5 12th, the par-5 15th and the short par-3 17th, closing with a final round 70 (1-under). The low round of the day (and the tournament), Mitchell’s three-day total of 219 was good enough for a 3-stroke win, the sophomore’s first major victory on the TJGT.
Lee finished in second place, and in third place was Frisco freshman Caroline Kent. Mieras, Whitney and Jalufka finished tied with Pflugerville’s Madison Silva and Plano’s Summer Lee, all in fourth place.
The Boys 15-18 event once again took place on the Crenshaw Cliffside course, one of Gentle Ben’s best (and most difficult) course designs. Scores in round 1 were solid through the field, but two players distanced themselves from the pack, opening up play with under-par rounds. Austin’s J. Holland Humphries lead the way to start, shooting a 4-under 67 on day 1, highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 second, and four birdies in his final six holes to close out the day. Cedar Park senior Phillip Schmitz also shot in the 60s on day 1, firing a 2-under-par 69, including a 33 on the front 9. Jacob Sosa of Buda and Austyn Reily of Pottsboro stood at even par after round 1, four shots back of Humphries.
In round 2, Sosa shot the round of the tournament, firing a five-under 66 that included four birdies, an eagle and only one bogey. He made up some ground on Humphries, but the Austin freshman continued his torrid pace, shooting 68 on day 2, taking a two-shot lead into the final round.
The final round produced some of the best weather of the week, and the scores showed it. While only three players total shot under par through the first two days, there were eight rounds under par on day 3, five of which were in the 60s. Arkansas native Palmer McSpadden and Dallas’ Connor Adams tied for the low final round with matching 68s.
The final group was chock full of fire power, as Humphries, Sosa and Schmitz squared off. The three were fairly evenly matched early, but Humphries turned on the jets on the back nine, making an eagle on the par-5 12th hole and a birdie on the par-5 15th enroute to a final round 69 (the only player to shoot in the 60s all three days) and a three-day total of 9-under par, the lowest winning score in years. Sosa, who shot 72 in the final round, took second place, with Adams and Schmitz finishing T3. Rounding out the Top 5 was Reily, who bounced back on day 3 after a disappointing second round, shooting 1-under, good enough for solo fifth.
BOYS 11-14 DIVISION
In the Boys 11-14 Division, also played on the Palmer Lakeside Course, New Braunfels’ Carson Gallaher took the lead early, shooting even par in round 1 to grab a three-shot advantage over Austin’s Zach Kingsland, the defending champion in this division. Gallaher’s even-par round was impressive enough by itself, but the fact that he did it while making a 9 on the par-5 15th was extraordinary. After making the quadruple-bogey, Gallaher composed himself and finished strong, carding birdies on 17 and 18 to maintain his 3-shot lead.
It was much of the same in round 2, as Gallaher and Kingsland continued to battle against each other, with only one shot separating them going into the final round. Austin’s Trevor Mierl made a nice leap up the leader board with an even-par round on day 2, leaving him just two shots off the lead.
Gallaher and Kingsland once again went back and forth on the final day. Kingsland played steady in the final round, with only a few blemishes on his card en route to a 74. Gallaher, on the other hand, was up-and-down. When his tee shot found the hazard on the par-3 14th and he made double, it appeared he would be unable to recover; but, he bounced back immediately, pouring in an eagle put on the next hole, and then finishing with three straight pars to tie Kingsland for the lead.
In the playoff, both players hit the green on the first hole, and Gallaher poured in a birdie putt, claiming the title. Kingsland took second. Mierl and Cypress’ Tomek Pickrell finished T3, with Pickrell taking home the hardware via a scorecard playoff.
The Low Final Round award went to Tyler’s Jacob Cole, who shot the only round under par for the entire week in the Boys 11-14 division.
To view photos of the event, click here for the TJGT Flickr page.