GRANITEVILLE, S.C. – On a hot, steamy day at Sage Valley Golf Club, Scottie Scheffler knew what had to be done in order to collect the biggest stroke-play victory of his young career.
With a final-round, 1-under 71 on Saturday, the top-ranked Scheffler won the 2014 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley by one over Cameron Champ of Sacramento, Calif.
On the front-nine, it was Scheffler, 17, and first-round leader Theo Humphrey of Greenwich, Conn., battling for the top spot on the leaderboard.
The tides turned when Scheffler made three consecutive birdies on Nos. 6-8 to hold a one-shot lead at the turn.
“It was a good confidence boost because my putting was really, really struggling at the beginning and it was nice to turn it around,” Scheffler, a native of Dallas, said.
It wasn’t long on the back nine before Champ went birdie-eagle on Nos. 14 and 15.
“He told me if I heard some roars in front of me then I’d know he was coming, and he was right,” Scheffler said.
Scheffler made some roars of his own on Nos. 13 and 15 to get into a tie with Champ heading into Sage Valley’s most demanding holes – Nos. 16-18. Both were tied at 6 under.
Champ was first to play the 499-yard, par-4 17th, and bogeyed after finding the right fairway bunker. He hit it out and left it short of the green, but couldn’t convert his up-and-down.
“I had a decent up and down, but just didn’t get the chip far enough and made bogey,” Champ said. “The last two holes are probably the two hardest holes on the course, especially 17. If you par there, you almost gain a stroke on field.”
Just one group later, Scheffler put his approach shot in almost the identical spot Champ had left his second shot. The top-ranked junior also failed to get up and down – making it the second consecutive year the tournament would be decided on the 54th hole.
After a wayward drive off the 18th tee that found the left rough, Champ scrambled to simply make bogey on the 18th.
“It’s definitely disappointing…” Champ said. “… It was kind of nice to give myself a chance, so I was proud of that. Props to Scottie on finishing with par, he deserves it.”
It was in the fairway Scheffler found out from the walking official in his group that he had to make par to secure the victory.
“I think it helped that I knew where he was at because my mindset would’ve been different (had I not known),” Scheffler said.
After the year Scheffler’s had in junior tournaments – capturing a win at the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur and being named the Rolex Player of the Year by the AJGA – this Junior Invitational will most likely be his final junior tournament.
What a sendoff.
“I will definitely miss it (this tournament). It’s a fun place,” Scheffler added. “This one is probably the best one (tournament) I’ve been to.”