Sam Burns holds on for Junior PGA title
Friday, August 1, 2014
BRYAN, Texas – Two months ago, Sam Burns held the 54-hole lead at the Sunnehanna Amateur, but couldn’t hold off Will Murphy, who topped Burns in a playoff.
Friday, the 18-year-old Shreveport, La., native wasn’t about to endure a similar fate.
Despite seeing a six-shot lead at the turn evaporate to just one, Burns held on to win the Junior PGA Championship at Miramont Country Club.
“I’ll always have that feeling of kind of a broken heart after that (loss at the Sunnehanna), but that only made me stronger to go through a situation like this,” said Burns, who shot a final-round even-par 71 to win by two shots over Gordon Neale.
An LSU commit, Burns led by six shots at the turn Friday afternoon. But Neale birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 14 as Burns bogeyed Nos. 12-13, cutting Burns’ advantage to just a shot through 14 holes.
That’s when Neale bogeyed the par-3 15th and the par-4 17th, the latter coming after he hit his tee shot into the hazard, to essentially end his chances at victory. Burns made pars the rest of the way.
“I felt like I was in control the whole time,” Burns said. “So I knew that I could keep it together and pull it out.”
Neale gets a nice consolation prize, though. Along with Burns, Neale earned a spot on the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team with his finish at Miramont.
“Getting on that Junior Ryder Cup team is going to by far outweigh the disappointment of not winning,” said Neale, who birdied the 18th to finish a shot ahead of Brad Dalke and Austin Connelly.
Burns will also get another perk with his victory, earning a sponsor exemption into next year’s Valero Texas Open.
“I get into a PGA Tour event,” Burns said. “That’s been a dream of mine for a while, so it’s pretty special.”
Burns had to play 25 holes Friday after the third round was suspended Thursday due to inclement weather. He went bogey-free for his final seven holes of the third round, adding two birdies and an eagle at the par-5 18th, to card a 6-under 65 and grab a four-shot lead after 54 holes.
“That gave me a lot of confidence going into the final round and it really motivated me to play well this afternoon,” Burns said.
Burns’ triumph at Miramont adds to what has already been a successful summer for the LSU commit. While he lost in a playoff, he still finished second at the Sunnehanna, and then two weeks later, he set an AJGA 72-hole scoring record by shooting 21-under 267 en route to winning the Rolex Tournament of Champions.
“Very grateful,” Burns said. “If somebody would’ve told me that at the beginning of the summer (I’d have the success I have had), I probably wouldn’t have believed them.”
Burns said it was hard being on his cellphone last week as he kept getting text messages from his friends asking him why he wasn’t playing in the U.S. Junior Amateur.
Burns won’t graduate high school until next spring, yet he was three days too old to play in last week’s U.S. Junior, which began July 21. Burns’ birthday is July 23.
“That was really tough getting some texts from those guys asking where I was at,” Burns said. “I definitely wanted to be there.”
Last week, Burns was too old. This week, his game came of age – and he’s a Junior PGA champion.
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