Reach rolls to eight-shot win


GRANITEVILLE --- The inaugural Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club might be remembered for a long time because of the standard set by Nicholas Reach.

Reach, an 18-year-old from Moscow, Pa., rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to close out an eight-shot victory.

He finished at 20-under 196 for the 54 holes.

"It was a great week," Reach said.

His 20-under total, which included a course-record tying 10-under-par 62 in the first round, might stand for a long time.

"I would think it will give players something to shoot at," said Sage Valley owner and chairman Weldon Wyatt. "To play the round of golf he played the first day, when the course was tougher than it was today (Friday) ... there's been a lot of pros play here and they've never shot that kind of score."

Reach's play was also complimented on by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who put the "Sage Valley Gold" jacket on Reach at the awards ceremony.

"I knew he was going to be here when I was first invited," Reach said. "It never crossed my mind that the commissioner of the PGA Tour would be putting it on me, but now it's a reality.

"I hope they'll also be putting it (a green jacket) on me at the Masters in a few years."

Augusta pro golfer Scott Parel, who has known Reach since 2005 when Parel played in a Nationwide event near Reach's home, was in his gallery Friday.

"He told me he was improving. It looks like it all came together," Parel said. "I don't think anybody expects to be 20-under for three rounds."

Reach, who led by six shots entering the final round, closed with 68.

"Shooting 68 in the final round is a feat, as well as keeping the lead for three days against the 53 top juniors in the world," he said. "It means so much; it's a big confidence booster."

Patrick Rodgers, of Avon, Ind., birdied the 17th hole and parred No. 18 to shoot 67 and finish second, one ahead of Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, who had 66.

Justin Thomas, of Goshen, Ky., tied the course record with 62 on Friday. It moved him up from a tie for 26th to sixth place. He opened with rounds of 79-67.

But the story all week long was Reach.

"He shot 62 in the first round and backed it up with 66-68; there was not much hope this week," Rodgers said of Reach.

Rodgers, who opened with rounds of 67-70, played with Reach the final two rounds.

"He played awesome. It was one of those weeks he had it going and there was nothing anyone could do. He didn't make any mistakes. He just played so, so well. All week he was in control. It was fun to watch. I couldn't be happier for him."

North Augusta's Matt NeSmith, who opened with 67-67 and was in second place entering the final round, had a final-round 75 and finished fourth.

"It was Nick's week," said NeSmith. "Even if I'd shot 6-under today, I would have lost by four."

Reach knew his birdie putt on No. 18 would bring him home in 20-under for the tournament.

"To finish 20-under is really special on such a great golf course," he said. "It was easy to make putts on those impeccable greens."

The tournament brought together the world's top golfers who were under 19 and hadn't enrolled in college.

Reach will be too old to play next year, but he will be invited back to put the gold jacket on the 2012 winner. He won't have that far to come -- he'll be in school at Georgia and said he'll "absolutely" return.

Also, the top 10 finishers -- if they meet the age requirements and aren't in college at this time next year -- earned automatic invitations back to next year's tournament. That means NeSmith, who is 17, has already secured a spot.

"I'm obviously a little disappointed with how I played today, but I'm thrilled that I get to come back here next year. It's going to be amazing."

Reach is headed to Georgia on a golf scholarship, and Bulldogs coach Chris Haack and assistant coach Jim Douglas were in his gallery all week.

Reach was encouraged to play golf at Georgia by Parel, a Georgia graduate who cheered on Reach for the final two holes Friday after Parel finished up his round an eGolf Tour event in Bythewood, S.C.

Parel met Reach when Parel played in a Nationwide Tour in Scranton, Pa., in 2005. Parel played with Reach's dad in the tournament's pro-am, and then stayed at the Reach home the next four years of the tournament before it was discontinued.

At first, Reach caddied for Parel in the event, then he received a sponsor exemption and played himself, opening with 67.

In November 2008, Parel invited Reach to a Georgia football game, and Reach became interested in attending Georgia.

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