LEXINGTON, Ky. – Admittedly conservative in her golf approach, Alexandra Swayne went against her nature during the final round of the Golfweek Junior Tour Championship Monday and proceeded to roll the dice.
Swayne thus learned not to ever again mess with Mother Nature.
Locked in a tight battle with Lynn Lim, Swayne played several aggressive shots early in her final round and twice she found the water. Reverting to her normal approach, Swayne re-established her game over the final 11 holes and claimed victory in a nail-biter finish at the 18th green.
Tied with Lim heading to the last hole, Lim appeared to have the upper hand staring down a 10-footer for birdie while Swayne faced a 24-footer from the lower tier of the green. Swayne rolled her birdie putt to tap-in range before Lim’s potential winning putt rolled five feet past. When Lim missed the comebacker, Swayne had her victory.
“Today was rocky on the front nine,” said Swayne, who is ranked No. 66 in Golfweek/Sagarin and is headed to Clemson University in the Fall. “I was stupid, going for pins that I should not have.”
On the par-5 16th (the seventh hole played), Swayne faced 186 yards into the green and went for broke.
“186 is an easy 7-wood for me. I normally lay back, but I felt confident over the ball. I was too confident not to grab the clubs I grabbed, but I knew I had a lot of holes left.”
What ensued was her second drowned ball of the round.
Trailing Lim by two shots, Swayne responded with a birdie at her ninth hole to move back into a tie. Both Swayne and Lim posted three more birdies on the inward nine to set up the final-hole drama.
“I played great and so did everyone else – I knew this was a really good field,” said Swayne, who will tee it up in three weeks at the Rolex Girls Junior Championship in Utah. “Lynn and I were neck and neck, and Marissa Wenzler, Katie Hallinan and Laney (Frye) they played great. I was definitely getting some pressure from behind.”
Swayne posted rounds of 69-70-70 for a 7-under 209 total on the University of Kentucky’s Big Blue Course. Lim finished alone in second at 70-69-71—210.
Frye came in third at 70-76-71—217 and was followed by Baili Park (71-71-77—218) and Ashley Zi-Tong Au (78-75-67—220).
With a couple more AJGA events remaining, Swayne’s stellar junior career is near an end, but she’s looking forward and not backward.
“It’s sad to wrap it up because I’ve enjoyed playing junior events. But I know college is going to be a lot of fun and the coach (Clemson’s Kelly Hester) has brought plenty of programs up and has made several great players over the years. The assistant (Heather Young) is coming over from the LPGA and I know she is going to be a real asset for me.”
Lim may have come up just short Monday, but she was able to earn GJT Player of the Year honors. A 2022 graduate, Lim is verbally committed to Vanderbilt University.
Moldovan sets Championship scoring record
Maxwell Moldovan put together three stellar rounds and outlasted Kyle Mitchell in a scoring duel for the ages in winning the Boys 16-19 title at the GJT Championship at UK’s Big Blue.
Moldovan fired rounds of 67-65-67—199 in setting a new scoring standard for the tournament, beating Mitchell by four strokes.
In all, eight different players scored under par for the three days, but none were quite as dynamic as Moldovan, who managed to score an eagle in every round. He grabbed the lead in the second round with a bogey-free round that included five birdies and an eagle at the par-5 5th hole.
Leading by two shots in the final round, Moldovan faced a formidable challenge in Mitchell, who opened with birdies at 2, 4, 7, 8 and 9 in a blistering outward nine of 31. Moldovan did some damage of his own by rebounding from a bogey at the opening hole with birdies at 5, 6 and 7 to hold within a shot of the lead as the players turned to the inward nine.
Trailing by two after a bogey at the 12th, Moldovan made his third eagle of the tournament at the 13th and regained the lead as Mitchell took bogey. From there it was all pars until an exclamation point birdie at the final hole.
Mitchell finished with rounds of 66-68-69—203 for sole possession of second place while Kyle Schmidt took third at 67-69-71—207.
Cameron Frazier fired rounds of 70-70-68—208 for fourth place while the top five was rounded out by the quartet of Austin Greaser (75-68-70—213), Jackson Chandler (73-71-69—213), Jay Kirchdorfer (71-69-73—213) and Campbell Kremer (68-68-77—213).
Flynn steady in Boys 14-15 victory
Matthew Flynn was the most consistent player among the Boys 14-15 division at UK’s Big Blue and parlayed that steady play into a 2-shot victory over Jackson Hill and Drew Salyers.
Flynn posted rounds of 72-72-73—219 and was able to win despite being the only player among the top 5 to not have a single round under par.
Although his final scores were consistently around par, Flynn made things interesting from hole to hole, especially in the final round as he was trying to erase a 3-shot deficit to Hill. Flynn carded five bogeys and a double bogey en route but offset that with four birdies and an eagle at the par-5 5th.
Hill, whose opening-round 64 was the round of the tournament, made triple bogey at his third hole (No. 12 on the course) of the final round as Flynn closed in. Tied with Flynn through 13 holes, Hill suffered a disastrous double bogey as Flynn recorded his eagle and a 4-shot swing. From there, Flynn was able to hold on despite a double bogey two holes later.
Salyers made two early birdies Monday to briefly move ahead but a double bogey on his sixth hole left him one back at the turn. The inward nine proved disastrous for Salyers who started double bogey-bogey-bogey and was unable to fully recover.
Hill finished at 64-77-78—219 while Salyers tied him at 72-71-76—219.
Matthew Troutman posted rounds of 74-76-71—221 to finish alone in fourth place while the trio of Reeve Felner (77-75-71—223), Cayden Pope (71-79-73—223) and Alex Hadden (73-74-76—223) rounded out the top five.
Hanni takes Girls 14-and-Under title
Kate Hanni finished with eight straight pars in beating Kary Hollenbaugh by one shot in the Girls 14-and-Under division at the GJT Championship.
Hanni fired rounds of 73-74-74—221 and trailed Hollenbaugh by one stroke heading to the inward nine. After both players made bogey on their 10th holes, Hanni played cleanly the rest o the way while Hollenbaugh suffered bogeys at the 11th and 14th holes.
Anna Ritter birdied the 10th hole Monday to move into a share of the lead at that point, but two bogeys and a double bogey at the last put her alone in third at 73-76-76—225.
Katelyn Kuc finished alone in fourth place at 76-76-75—227 while Madison Dabagia (83-77-76—236) and Casey Powell (77-81-78—236) shared fifth place.
Coyle hangs on in Boys 13-and-Under
Luke Coyle withstood a strong final-round charge by Dhruv Kumar with a low round himself in winning the Boys 13-and-under title at UK’s Big Blue.
Coyle fired rounds of 72-71-68—211 and needed every bit of his five birdies in the final round in winning by five shots.
Leading Rylan Wotherspoon by just one shot heading into Monday’s final round, Coyle posted birdies on three of his first six holes to take total command of the tournament. Charging from behind was Kumar, who started the day six back then applied pressure with a bogey-free round.
Kumar birdied the opening hole then put together a run of birdies at 10, 11 and 12 forcing Coyle to play near mistake-free in order to maintain his lead.
Kumar finished at 77-72-67—216 to finish alone in second place while Wotherspoon, one shot back at the started of the round, suffered two double bogeys Monday and finished alone in third place at 73-71-73—217.
Joe Wilson IV shot 74-73-76—223 to take fourth place while Michael Long (76-79-72—227) and Oakley Gee (74-73-80—227) shared fifth place.