PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Robby Shelton was a little reluctant to say it.
“I guess I’m on a hot streak right now or something,” Shelton said after taking a share of the first-round lead at the Junior Players Championship. The Wilmer, Ala., native, who was coming off a victory at the Junior PGA, had just conquered the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, shooting 2-under 70.
Now, Shelton might not be so hesitant.
He turned in an even-par 72 to hold off Brad Dalke by one stroke and capture the Junior Players – his first AJGA title and first Junior Players victory in three tries.
“Going into this tournament, you know you’re one of the top juniors in the world, so it feels great to win,” Shelton said.
Shelton avoided trouble for most of the tournament. He had just one bogey through two rounds and turned in a bogey-free, 3-under 67 during the second round on the Dye’s Valley Course. He entered the final round on the Stadium Course tied with Jim Liu for the lead and one shot ahead of Dalke.
Liu turned in a 5-over 77 to effectively end his title hopes, but Shelton and Dalke continued their solid play and entered No. 18 all tied up at 5 under. Dalke hit a tree limb on his second shot and ended up making bogey after his 15-footer for par lipped out. Shelton then drained a 10-foot par putt to finish off his 5-under 209.
The clutch par save came after Shelton made double at No. 17, hitting his pitching wedge over the island green and into the hazard. Dalke, who was in the midst of a charge after four birdies through seven holes on the back nine, couldn’t take advantage, bogeying the hole.
“I knew he [Dalke] was coming for me on that back nine, but I was playing pretty steady all day so I didn’t think I had to be too aggressive,” said Shelton, who has won his age division at the Future Masters four of the past five years and will play for the United States in the Junior Ryder Cup on Sept. 24-25. Liu, who finished third – five strokes back – in his fourth Junior Players, will also be on that team.
Shelton said he felt comfortable the entire weekend at TPC Sawgrass and his 37-hole bogey-less streak was proof of that. He held off Dalke, who made late charges in each of his three rounds, with a consistent performance.
He’s a soft-spoken kid with a thick Southern accent, and, after another big junior tournament victory, on quite the hot streak.