Murray, Levonowich complete wire-to-wire victories
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. – When Grayson Murray’s ball rolled into the hole for an eagle on No. 12 at Pine Needles Sunday, it took him a few seconds to react.
The 16-year-old simply stood in the fairway, arms outstretched, and calmly said, “That’s pretty cool.”
Golfweek Jr. Series: Pine Needles highlights
The eagle, which Murray spun back into the hole with a knock-down sand wedge from 104 yards, put him to 6 under for the tournament. He played his last six holes in even par to finish nine shots ahead of second-place finishers Michael Werenski and Richard Fountain at the Golfweek Junior Series event.
“I knew it was a good shot when I hit it,” Murray said. “It was kind of neat just watching it drop but I’m not going to jump up and down. I’m kind of just a low-key guy.”
Murray, of nearby Raleigh, N.C., shot back-to-back 68s and was the only player to break par in either round. Sunday’s round was still more of a struggle, he said.
“It was really a scrambling day all day,” he said. “I missed a lot of greens and wasn’t hitting it that great, but getting up and down to save the pars, which really kept me going.”
Murray opened Round 1 with three birdies in the first four holes, but was 1 over through five holes in Round 2. Birdies at Nos. 6 and 8 got him to 1 under, and he had one other birdie at the par-5 15th after going for the green, then getting up and down from a greenside bunker.
With an average driving distance of 290 yards, Murray was one of the longer hitters in the field. He also switched to a belly putter last summer to address what he felt was a weakness in his game.
“I knew I had to step it up if I wanted to play and compete against some top players, and I went to that and it really helped me a lot,” he said.
Fountain, also of Raleigh, and Werenski, of South Hadley, Mass., both shot final-round 74s to tie for second place at 3-over 145. The two, together with Murray, played in the final pairing in Round 2, and at the turn all three players were tied at 1 under (34) for the round.
Fountain and Murray attend high schools in the same athletic conference and play together often. Both players take lessons from Ted Keigiel, who also works with PGA Tour player Webb Simpson.
Grayson Murray and Minami Levonowich break down their wire-to-wire wins at Pine Needles.
“It was a lot of fun that we were all playing well, kind of feeding off everyone else’s play,” Fountain said.
That was especially true on No. 8, when all three players drained long putts for birdie. Fountain, 17, also won’t soon forget standing next to Murray as he holed out for eagle.
“That was pretty cool to watch,” he said.
On a course saturated from heavy rain Saturday, Werenski, 15, struggled coming down the stretch with three bogeys in the last five holes.
“I didn’t hit it as good as yesterday,” Werenski said.
Spencer Lawson, of Raleigh, N.C., and Damon Postal, of Blythewood, S.C., tied for fourth at 5-over 147. All five players will advance to the Golfweek Junior Invitational at Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla.
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In the girls division, Minami Levonowich separated herself from the rest of the field with a second-round 74. Levonowich, who attends the Junior Players Golf Academy in Hilton Head, S.C., finished with an eight-shot victory over second-place finishers Brooke Kochevar and Taelor Rubin, and is the sole player to advance to the Golfweek Junior Invitational.
Levonowich made no birdies in her round, but carded just three bogeys in what she called a “boring” round. The final bogey, at No. 17, came after an errant drive hit a tree and dropped into a bunker. Levonowich blasted out down the fairway, and got up and down for a bogey.
“I got really nervous at that point,” she said of the tee shot.
Levonowich shaved two strokes from her first-round 76 thanks to better chipping and putting.
“I’m improving a lot,” she said of her recent switch from the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy to the JPGA. “I’m just working on short game and putting, just doing some drills and stuff.”
The victory is Levonowich’s first since 2008, when she won the St. John’s Junior Open (a Hurricane Junior Golf Tour event) and the International Junior Golf Tour event at the Colonial Williamsburg (Va.) Resort.
Kochevar, of Glen Ellyn, Ill., shot a second-round 81 to finish at 16-over 158. Taelor Rubin, of Raleigh, N.C., improved by two shots in the second round for a 78.
Scotland Preston, of Mountainside, N.J., dropped from third to fourth in Round 2 with an 83 that left her at 19 over for the tournament.
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