GRANITEVILLE — Rising to the occasion in a major junior tournament is no problem for Scottie Scheffler, who did it again on Saturday at Sage Valley Golf Club.
The No. 1-ranked junior in the country added the Junior Invitational to the U.S. Junior Amateur he won last summer.
“It feels pretty good,” the 17-year-old Scheffler said after beating 18-year-old Cameron Champ by a shot in what turned into a two-man battle for the title in the final round.
Scheffler, the second-round leader, who is from Dallas, closed with 1-under-par 71 to finish at 5-under 211. He opened with rounds of 71-69, making him the only player to break par each day.
Champ, of Sacramento, Calif., was four shots off the lead after the second round, but had the low round of the day with 68. He opened with 71-73.
Brad Dalke, of Hobart, Okla., shot 73 to finish third at 216, five behind Scheffler.
Scheffler and Champ are headed to college in the fall and will be too old to play here next year. Dalke, 16, will return to Sage Valley for the fourth year in a row.
At his post-round interview, Scheffler was asked a couple of times which victory was more meaningful – the U.S. Junior or the Junior Invitational – but he was vague in his answers.
He said the Junior Invitational “was one of the best” and “this one is right up there” and that it was hard to compare the two because the U.S. Junior had a match-play final and this was stroke play.
Finally, he said “yes” when asked if the Sage Valley win was bigger.
Scheffler earned it after overcoming a triple bogey on the 13th hole in Thursday’s first round. From that point on, he played his final 41 holes in
He had 36 pars in the three days, none of them bigger than the one he made on the 18th hole on Saturday.
Champ, playing in the group in front of Scheffler, had bogeyed the 18th hole to finish at 4-under for the tournament.
Scheffler, back in the right rough off the tee, was 5-under for the tournament and knew a par would win it. He blasted a 205-yard 4-iron to 15 feet of the pin, which was in the back of the green.
“It was pretty good; it was at a big moment,” Scheffler said of the 4-iron shot. “But it still wasn’t over; I still needed to two-putt.”
He lagged his approach to a couple of feet from the hole and made the par putt for the win.
As he was walking up the hill to the scorer’s tent, Champ, who had watched the finish, walked down to congratulate Scheffler, who was one of his roommates during the week at Sage Valley.
“I knew if I parred there (on No. 18) I’d have a chance for a playoff but I wasn’t able to,” said Champ, whose caddie for the third consecutive year was Augustan Michael Phelps. “That bogey took me out of it.”
Champ was the story on the front nine, shooting 4-under 32 while Scheffler got off to slow start, going 2-over after five holes. Scheffler then struck for birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8 to right the ship.
“My putter was struggling at the beginning; it was nice to turn it around,” Scheffler said.
Champ kept coming. He eagled the par-5 15th hole with a 4-foot putt to move to 6-under for his round and pull one ahead of Scheffler, who followed with a birdie on No. 15 to tie it up. They both parred No. 16 and bogeyed No. 17, setting the stage for the drama at No. 18.
Scheffler and Champ have become good friends while playing in the junior ranks, including the 2012 Junior Ryder Cup.
Champ signed to play at Texas A&M, and tried to convince Scheffler to join him at College Station. Scheffler picked Texas instead, so they will meet again in the fall on the next level.