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Despite chaotic final round, Walsh hangs on to post Gateway PGA Junior win

Despite chaotic final round, Walsh hangs on to post Gateway PGA Junior win

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS — After a first round that was about as steady as they come, Ryan Walsh’s second round was anything but.

“It was a chaotic round,” the Chaminade junior-to-be said. “It was pretty up and down.”

After shooting an even-par 70 on Tuesday, Walsh carded a 5-over 75 in Wednesday’s final round of the Gateway PGA Junior Tour two-day tournament at The Quarry at Crystal Springs Golf Club. Even with the higher second-round score, Walsh still took home the Tour Boys Division championship.

“Looking back, I’m pretty happy,” he said. “Obviously, you look back to see what you could have done a lot better. You could have gone under par, but at the end of the day, you still won.”

Walsh’s final round started with bogeys on the first, second and fourth holes, but he rebounded to post birdies on Nos. 5, 6 and 8. A bogey on the 9th hole followed by a double bogey on No. 10 shaved a once sizable lead down to two strokes. But Walsh again righted the ship with a birdie and three pars on the next four holes before finishing with bogeys on three of the final four holes.

“I had kind of a rough start,” he said. “I bogeyed three of my first four holes. But then I got back with three birdies on the next four holes. But then I just hit a couple bad tee shots and had a couple penalty shots. And then finishing with three bogeys on my last four holes, that wasn’t too good to end it. But it is what it is. I came out with a 75, which wasn’t too bad.”

Walsh cited a couple key differences between his first and second rounds.

“I would say I just didn’t hit as many greens today and my tee shots were better yesterday,” he said. “And I think I only had one penalty stroke yesterday, compared to three today.”

O’Fallon junior-to-be Caden Cannon originally had a second-place finish with a two-day total of 147, including a tournament-best 72 in the final round. But a ruling on a scoring discrepancy Wednesday led to him being disqualified.

That left Westminster junior-to-be Jack Wooldridge and Highland senior-to-be Evan Sutton in a two-way tie for second place with matching 148s. Wooldridge got the second-place medal by virtue of having a better second-round score (75 to Sutton’s 77).

“It was a little bit tough to get into my first competitive round this late in the season (last week), but it is what it is,” Wooldridge said. “I could work on my game during quarantine, so I felt pretty good coming into last week and even better coming into this week.”

Wooldridge had a strong front nine Wednesday with a 1-over 35 that included two birdies and four pars. Double bogeys on each of the first three holes of the back nine presented an obstacle, but Wooldridge bounced back with four pars and a birdie among his final six holes.

“Today, I had a good front nine,” he said. “I made two birdies and I shot 1-over on the front, which is better than I did yesterday. Then, I hit a lull around the beginning of the back nine where some of the sharpness just wasn’t there anymore. I was hitting some wedges that just weren’t going to where I wanted them.”

Sutton had a totally opposite day in that he struggled with an 8-over 42 on a front nine that included four bogeys and two double bogeys, but then turned his fortunes completely around on the back nine with a spectacular 1-under 35 that was highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 17th hole.

That second round came on the heels of a steady opening round Tuesday in which Sutton fired a 35-36 to finish the day at just 1-over.

“Yesterday, I just made all my up and down putts,” he said. “Today, I started off rough on my front nine. I got a couple more swing thoughts in my head on the back nine and went 1-under. I started slowing it all down and hit it more solid.”

Walsh and Wooldridge had their spring high school seasons erased by the coronavirus pandemic, but the Illinois boys golf season is in the fall, so Sutton is using his time this summer to gear up for that.

“I just try to get out every day, play as much as I can, hit range balls and work on my swing,” he said. “Hopefully, by season, everything is connected.”

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