ROMERO WINS DRAMA-FILLED SCISSORTAIL JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP
Thomas emerges as champion in Girls Division
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. Sean Romero of Texarkana, Ark., refused to go away during Thursday's final round of the Scissortail Junior Championship and left with trophy in hand after signing for a 1-over-par 217 regulation total and winning the tournament on the second playoff hole. Chessey Thomas of Spokane, Wash., broke free from the Girls Division pack and emerged as the winner after shooting a tournament total of 7-over-par 223.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Scissortail Junior Championship was a 54-hole stroke play event held at Golf Club of Oklahoma in Broken Arrow, Okla. The tournament field consisted of 75 boys and 24 girls, ages 12-18, from 14 states. The Boys Division played the par-72 Golf Club of Oklahoma at 6,919 yards and the Girls Division played at 6,071 yards.
Romero faced a daunting task entering the final round of the Scissortail Junior Championship: he needed to pick up six strokes on Colton Staggs of Tulsa, Okla., who one day prior posted a 6-under-par 66. Romero might not have known it at the time, but after Thursday's outward nine, he had picked up five strokes on Staggs. The pairing of Romero's 1-under-par 35 and Stagg's 4-over-par 40 was the perfect setup for back-nine drama.
After bogeying both Nos. 10 and 11, Romero made a charge. He finished the rest of the back nine with two birdies and five pars, allowing him to card a 1-under-par 71 for the final round. His strong finish became more important when Staggs found trouble on the 545-yard, par-5 No. 18. Only one stroke up on Romero, Staggs put his approach shot into the thick, troubling grass bunker guarding the large green and failed to free his ball out in one attempt. It forced him to settle for a tap-in bogey putt, securing Romero's spot in the extra-hole playoff.
To be honest, I was surprised I got into a playoff, Romero said of reminding himself he was 2-under-par through four holes for the round. I knew I was going to have to shoot under par, but I thought I'd have to shoot more under par than I did.
Walking up to the first playoff green, Romero and Staggs both found their golf balls on No. 18 in regulation. However, Staggs had another tap-in, this time for birdie, while Romero was looking at a 15-footer for the same mark. Romero calmly drilled his putt into the back of the cup and listened as his gallery erupted in approval. The two boys moved to the 163-yard, par-3 No. 17 and watched as both of their tee shots went astray. Romero took two strokes to get his ball out of the rough and onto the putting surface, while Staggs only needed one. Laying three and still away, Romero had another must-make putt, this time from 10 feet. He would not yield, as his putt disappeared into the bottom of the cup. The gutsy putt put the pressure back on Staggs, who had six feet of work left to do for the tournament victory. Instead, he watched his putt sail past the hole, leaving a must-make putt of his own from a foot out. While Staggs had been great all week, in the end it just wasn't meant to be and Romero's par held up.
I was ready to go to the next hole [when he stepped over his tap-in], Romero said. I was surprised, but it means a lot. I haven't really played well this summer, so this will give me confidence at my next tournament.
This was Romero's first AJGA tournament win.
Following Staggs in third was Johannes Veerman of Sugar Land, Texas, who finished the tournament at 2-over-par 218. In fourth was Wyndham Clark of Greenwood Village, Colo., who signed for a tournament total 3-over-par 219. Rounding out the top five was Wyatt Robson of Ada, Okla., who finished at 6-over-par 222.
Entering the final round, both Thomas and Veronica Valerio of Temecula, Calif., were tied atop the Girls Division leaderboard at 5-over-par 149. Through nine holes, Valerio had a one-stroke lead. However, Thomas never diverged from her game plan.
I played to make par today, Thomas said. The last few holes I hit to the middle of the greens and had tap-in pars.
It seemed to pay dividends, as she picked up three strokes by carding an even-par back nine en route to winning the tournament by two and carding a final-day, 2-over-par 74.
I've come close a few times, but I haven't finished well on the last day doing it today should give me confidence.
Valerio finished alone in second at 9-over-par 225 while Elizabeth Doty of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., took home third with a tournament total of 11-over-par 227.
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The largest Association of its kind, the AJGA has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of more than 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and more than 30 foreign countries.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which is in its third decade of AJGA support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Polo Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 200 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA tours and have compiled more than 350 wins. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Cristie Kerr, Pat Hurst, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel and Julieta Granada.
For more information about the Scissortail Junior Championship, please call AJGA National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.