One of the saddest scenes you’ll ever see in golf occurred on the 18th green Thursday at Jones Creek Golf Club.
McKenzie Talbert’s three playing partners all gave her congratulatory hugs for what they believed was her first American Junior Golf Association victory. Only it wasn’t.
The 36-hole leader, Talbert appeared to be in firm command of the E-Z-GO Vaughn Taylor Championship on the back nine.
The Edgefield County resident was well ahead of everyone in her group, but she didn’t know August Kim was charging one group ahead.
With no scoreboards on the course and no real way of knowing where she stood, Talbert assumed she held a large lead when she got to the par-4 18th.
What she didn’t know? Kim birdied four of the final six holes, including a 21-foot birdie putt at the last which gave her a closing 5-under-par 67, her lowest tournament round. After struggling with her putting the first two days, Kim dropped bombs all over the course for a 4-over 220 total.
“Today, I putted lights out,” said Kim, who needed just 27 putts. “My long game was good all week. I was just worried about my putting.”
Connor Smith of Birmingham, Ala., closed with 72 for a 208 total to win the boys division, besting David Hemann by seven shots. Hemann, of Evans, posted the low final round among the boys with 68. With Smith running away with the boys title, all eyes focused on the No. 18 green.
While Talbert faced a 35-foot uphill birdie putt, her dad, Ken, learned his daughter had just a one-shot lead, but he decided not to scream the information to her 100 feet away. Assuming she was well ahead, Talbert aggressively tried to hole the putt. Instead, the ball sped 5 feet by. She lipped out the par putt before tapping in for bogey.
After her playing partners congratulated her, Talbert met an official who delivered the news – she would meet Kim at No. 10 for a playoff.
In sudden death, Kim, of St. Augustine, Fla., rolled in an 8-foot
par putt. Talbert three-putted from 50 feet, missing a 5-foot attempt to extend the playoff.
“I played as good as I could,” Talbert said. “In the end, I kind of feel like it was taken from me. No disrespect to her and how she played. Sixty-seven is awesome. I just wish someone would’ve told me all I had to do was two-putt the last hole. Obviously, it wasn’t in the cards.”