• • •
HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. – For the second straight day, just three players broke 70 at the Golfweek International Junior Invitational. Two of them came out winners.
Nick Gabrelcik, of Trinity, Fla., closed in 3-under 69 on Sunday at Mission Inn Resort’s El Campeon layout for a 4-under 140 total and a one-shot victory in the boys division.
Meiyi Yan, of Windermere, Fla., did even better at Mission Inn’s Las Colinas, putting together a flawless 5-under 67 for a two-shot triumph at 5 under overall in the girls division.
Gabrelcik beat out Papon Sawatyanon (70-71) by a shot for the title. First-round leader Khavish Varadan closed in 74 to fall to solo third at 1 under.
For the winner, this result was hard-fought and the significance wasn’t lost on him.
“This is important to me,” Gabrelcik said.
The 16-year-old credited his iron play and putting in the victory. He felt his swing plane had gotten too far outside heading into the tournament, leading to hooks. He worked on pushing his motion back inside in order to hit it straighter.
The adjustment worked, as did his change in putting. Gabrelcik, a 2020 North Florida commit, could feel that his putting alignment was off ahead of the event as well.
“It was a mess and I ended up just practicing it and fixed it,” Gabrelcik said.
Yan, 17, also used a strong putting performance to lead her to victory, which she earned over Susan Xiao (72-69). Two-time defending champion Ching-Tzu Chen placed T-19 at 7 over.
Yan, a 2019 prospect who has not yet announced her college decision, worked specifically on lag putting and short putts heading into the tournament.
That didn’t appear to pay off when she three-putted two of her first three holes. But she avoided another three-putt the remainder of the tournament.
Her work on the greens had an effect, as did her attitude.
“I came into this week without big expectations, just wanted to have fun, play the game,” Yan said.
But after the victory, the teenager couldn’t help but understand the gravity of her triumph.
“I haven’t won a lot, so this means a lot to me,” Yan said. “I’m very grateful for this win.”