JOHNSON FIRES 67 IN FINAL ROUND TO TAKE BOYS DIVISION IN ABILENE
O'Connell shoots 74 to win first AJGA championship
ABILENE, Texas — William Johnson, 18, of Longview, Texas, fired a 5-under-par 67 to take a come-from-behind victory in the Abilene Reporter-News/Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior. Megan O'Connell, 17, of Odessa, Texas, remained in first place during Thursday's final round to capture her first AJGA win after a three-day total of 226.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the 25th edition of the Abilene Reporter-News/Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior is held at Fairway Oaks Country Club. The 54-hole event showcased 120 of the nation's premier golfers, ages 12-18. Seven states were represented at this week's event, including 102 Texans. Past champions of the event include PGA Tour veterans Phil Mickelson and Scott Verplank.
Johnson, who came into Thursday's final round tied for third place, carded six birdies on his way to a final-round low of 67. A chip-in birdie from the rough on No. 17 sealed the deal for Johnson, who had carded a bogey on No. 16.
“I made the putts that I was supposed to make today,” Johnson said.
Johnson's three-day total of 210 gave him a two-stroke margin over Jeffrey Edelman of Southlake, Texas, who finished the tournament alone in second place at 212. Johnson's previous best finish in an AJGA event was a top-15 finish in the 2005 Valero Texas Open Junior Shootout presented by Ingram Park Auto Center.
“It was just a solid round,” Johnson said. “The guys I played with were good competitors, it was a lot of fun to finish first.”
In third was Ryan Myers of Flint, Texas, with a three-day tournament total of 214 after a final-round 74. Blaine Butner of Wewoka, Okla., and Andy Choi of Orlando, Fla., tied at 215 for fourth in the Boys Division.
Maintaining strong focus throughout her round, O'Connell shot even-par on the front nine, including two birdies on Nos. 2 and 5. A 2-over-par 38 on the back nine led O'Connell to a 74, which was the lowest of her three rounds and the final-round low in the Girls Division.
“I'm overwhelmed,” O'Connell said. “I'm so excited, words can't even describe how good it feels to win.”
O'Connell admits it was awkward to play against Raelyn Smith, of Odessa, Texas, who is her teammate on the course at Permian High School.
“It was hard at first,” O'Connell said. “She's such a great player.”
O'Connell was three strokes ahead of Smith, who shot a 5-over-par 77 during the final round to end the tournament in second place with a score of 229.
Rounding out the top three in the Girls Division was Amanda Martinez of San Antonio, who shot a 4-over-par 76 in the final round, carding a 233 for the tournament.
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 AJGA, the largest Association of its kind, has a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 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, a supporter of the AJGA since 1983, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 wins. AJGA alumni include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Dottie Pepper, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Beth Bauer.
For more information about the Abilene Reporter-News/Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior or other AJGA events, call AJGA headquarters in Atlanta at (877) 373-2542.