LADUE — The revelation hit Ryan Hopwood in early March.
That's was the moment the then-Marquette High junior realized it was time to take golf seriously.
"Before, it was like, 'let's go have fun, let's meet some people," Hopwood said. "Now, it became time to focus, time to try and get better."
That new attitude is paying big dividends.
Hopwood fired a career-best 5-under-par 66 on Tuesday to win the 23rd annual Metropolitan Junior Amateur Golf Championship at The Bogey Club.
He finished the two-day, 36-hole event with an 8-under-par 134 to claim a five-shot win over Andy Hennen (139). Carter White, who will be a senior at Francis Howell this fall, placed third (143).
Hopwood claimed his first tournament championship in only his second summer event. He spent the previous summers hanging by the neighborhood pool and working a couple of part-time jobs.
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This summer, golf is the top priority.
"I figured that I knew I was pretty good and I knew I had the ability," Hopwood said. "So, I told myself to get out there and put in the work and see what happens."
So far, so good.
Hopwood carried a one-shot lead into the final round and made an early statement with five birdies over his first eight holes. He was 4-under at the turn and then cruised home to win the boys Under 19 division.
"My ball-striking has always been pretty good, but I finally started making a few putts these last few days," Hopwood said.
Hopwood, who calls Forest Hills Country Club his home, showed no nerves after bolting to the first-round lead. He actually remained confident with the championship on the line.
"I woke up this morning and decided to play it cool," Hopwood said. "It was a little hard to sleep at first, but I really wasn't nervous. Just excited and ready to go."
Hopwood took up golf as a freshman and reach the state high school tournament in both his sophomore and junior campaigns. He finished 40th last spring but shaved seven shots off his opening-round score. Hopwood placed 47th at state the prior season.
Now, with a renewed desire, Hopwood feels like the sky is the limit. He plans on playing in several more summer tournaments with an eye on gaining a college scholarship down the road.
Hopwood admits there are some days when he misses the typical summer life of a teenager. The water and sun can be very tempting.
"This has been a lot different, but I love golf," Hopwood said. "If I'm going to keep on going with it, I've got to get better. And the only way to do that is to work as much as possible."
White, the third-place finisher, concluded an up-and-down round with four successive pars. He had five birdies and seven bogeys over the first 14 holes.
"I feel like I'm hitting the ball a lot better than usual," White said. "Today, the putts weren't falling."
Matthew Politte, a recent Priory grad, turned in the best round of the event with a 6-under 65 on Tuesday to finish in a tie for fourth with Blake Skornia at 144. Politte shaved 14 strokes off his opening round score of 79.
Audrey Cain took the U19 girls title with a 147. The recent Alton-Marquette graduate finished seven shots ahead of defending champion Avery McLaughlin and Peyton Cusick (154). Cain carded an even-par 71 on Tuesday after an opening-round 76. McLaughlin will be a sophomore at Visitation Academy in the fall. Cusick is an incoming senior at Marquette.
Konnor Kueper took the U15 boys title with back-to-back 73's.
Caden Fehr won the U13 boys crown with a two-day total of 137. He shot a 67 on Tuesday.