Figueroa wins PR Junior, earns PGA Tour start

Edward Figueroa after winning the Puerto Rico Junior Open.

Edward Figueroa after winning the Puerto Rico Junior Open.

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Edward Figueroa of Naples, Fla., won the Puerto Rico Junior Open on Monday, earning an exemption into the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open.

Figueroa finished his second AJGA victory in exciting fashion, making back-to-back birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 at Trump International Golf Club.

Figueroa three-putted No. 16 in the final round and said he was nervous when he stepped to the 17th tee.

“I had been stroking my 3-wood all day, but the bunker on 17 really scared me,” said Figueroa, who topped good friend Jorge Garcia and 2010 U.S. Junior champion Jim Liu by one shot.

Back on No. 10, Figueroa had thinned a bunker shot over the green and made bogey. He was forced to negotiate a similar bunker on the 17th tee.

“The bunker on 17 looked exactly like number 10,” Figueroa said. “My bunker play is usually pretty good, but I was nervous after what happened. My heart was beating so fast.”

Apparently, it wasn’t a problem.

After his back-to-back birdies, Figueroa went into the clubhouse with a one-shot lead at 4 under and thought he still had work to do.

“In my head, I knew it wasn’t over. I really expected a playoff,” he said.

Garcia was making a surge of his own and had birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to put himself 3 under with one hole to go. But after Garcia began to unravel down the stretch, Figueroa knew he’d held him off.

“I didn’t want to cheer or anything. (Garcia) is my friend, you know?” Figueroa said. “But I was so happy to know that I’d won.”

Figueroa was even more excited to have his family by his side.

“It meant a lot to win in front of my family. They’re from San Juan, so for them to come up and see me play for a win, it means a lot.”

The winner of the Puerto Rico Junior Open receives a chance to play in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open on March 5-11.

“Man, it means so much,” Figueroa said of the exemption. “I’m going to work really hard. I really want to make the cut.”

Figueroa, who has committed to Florida Gulf Coast University, has big plans for himself, but he knows he has to take it one step a time.

“I first want to help out my team and make a name for myself in the NCAA,” he said, “I’m going to work extremely hard to make it to the PGA Tour someday.”

Figueroa holds a certain charm that makes him easy to pull for, but he certainly possesses more than just a good personality. When asked if there was anything he wanted people to know about him, he skipped any personal traits and responded with his resume of finishes on the AJGA. It’s obvious Figueroa believes he’s an up-and-comer in the world of junior golf.

Come March, he’ll have the stage to prove it.

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