AUSTIN, Texas – Chandler Phillips heard the roars on the second hole of the University of Texas Golf Club on Thursday and knew that his go-to strategy of playing aggressively would be especially important. Phillips began the day at the Under Armour/Jordan Spieth Championship with a two-shot lead, but Charles Kim immediately gave chase.
It began with the hole in one. Kim is a native of nearby Cedar Park, Texas, who has committed to play for the Longhorns beginning next fall. He know the University of Texas track well, but even Kim was surprised by the number of things that went his way in the final round.
After the ace at No. 2, Kim birdied Nos. 9 and 11, then kept chasing on the back with a birdie at No. 13 and an eagle at the par-5 14th. His 6-under 65 ties his lowest round in competition. He also shot 65 earlier this summer at the AJGA’s FJ Invitational, a prestigious event hosted at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C.
“I was striking the ball well,” said Kim, whose round pushed him to 7-under 206 for the tournament. After Phillips came in behind whim with a final-round 69, the two had to play down the 18th hole again in sudden death.
And again. And again.
Kim and Phillips traded pars on the first two tries – Phillips getting up-and-down from the bunker on the first playoff hole and Kim getting up-and-down from nearly that exact spot the second time. Finally, Phillips made a 6-footer for par to win the tournament and claim his second AJGA title.
Kim, meanwhile, smiled and walked into the shade calmly. Enough had gone his way on Thursday that he was able to leave the course satisfied.
After delivering his acceptance speech, Phillips shook his head at the shot he hit from the bunker to stay alive on the first playoff hole.
“You give me 20 more balls and I won’t do that again,” he said grinning.
Phillips, a 17-year-old from Huntsville, Texas, will play for Texas A&M next fall. He’ll bring an aggressive style of play to college golf that has suited him well so far. Phillips hit 15 greens on Wednesday, and knew that the playoff was a result of Kim catching him, not because he made any mistakes in his own game.
“It’s my second one to win,” Phillips said of the AJGA victory. Perhaps even more notably, Phillips won the HP Byron Nelson Junior Championship in June, thanks in large part to a second-round 62. He came two shots short of breaking Jordan Spieth’s 54-hole record in the event.
In the girls division, Hailee Cooper safely won a second consecutive AJGA event by finishing six shots ahead of runner-up Michaela Williams. Cooper won wire-to-wire after an opening 3-under 68. She followed with rounds of 70-72 for a 3-under 213 total.
“I’ve been in a few tournaments where I really didn’t finish as well,” Cooper said. “I was proud of the way I finished (today).”
Cooper, a 14-year-old from Montgomery, Texas, will return to Austin in a few days to play the George Hannon Invitational, a tournament sponsored by the Texas Legends Junior Golf Tour. Cooper is gunning to defend her title as the Legends Junior Tour Player of the Year.
After that tournament, Cooper begins her high school career at Montgomery, and the first order of business is qualifying for the high-school golf team, a storied program with 11 state titles at the 4A level.
Cooper’s iron game is in good shape to start the high-school season – she hit 17 greens in the first and final rounds at the University of Texas Golf Club – but if there’s one area she’d like to improve, it’s her short game. Cooper hopes to one day be “automatic” when it comes to putts of 10 feet or closer. As it is, her putting pre-shot routine involves thinking back to a putt of a similar length she made to gain confidence.
“I’m really good at remembering stuff like that,” she said.
The good memories are building.