Olsen wins Junior Invitational

Olsen holds on to claim title

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GRANITEVILLE — Don’t let all of that orange fool you.

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Junior Invitational Tournament Director Paul Simon, left, puts the yellow jacket on Zachary Olsen following the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Junior Invitational Tournament Director Paul Simon, left, puts the yellow jacket on Zachary Olsen following the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club.

Zachary Olsen is from Cordova, Tenn., and for Sunday’s final round of the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley he sported an orange shirt, sunglasses with orange accents and orange tape on his driver.

Olsen, who strolled to a three-shot victory Sunday at the second annual Junior Invitational, is bound for a college where orange figures prominently into the color scheme.

Just not the one you think.

Olsen, 17, is going to Okla­homa State. The Cowboys are one of college golf’s strongest programs, and Olsen figures to be a key player for them.

“Go Pokes,” said Olsen, who committed to the school in November. “I’m going to be a Cowboy.”

The teen put together his strongest showing in a national event at Sage Valley.

He opened with consecutive rounds of 68 to take a three-shot lead, and he didn’t back off Sunday against an elite field of 54 of the world’s best junior golfers.

Playing against future Oklahoma State teammate Wyndham Clark and Robby Shelton, Olsen birdied his opening hole and never looked back. His 1-over-par 73 gave him a total of 209 for the tournament, well behind Nicholas Reach’s pace of 20-under in 2011 but good enough for a three-shot win.

Clark (73 on Sunday), Shelton (73), Taylor Moore (69) and North Augusta’s Matt NeSmith (70) all tied for second at 4-under 212.

“It’s validation for how much hard work I’ve put in,” Olsen said.

“Ever since the HP (tournament) I’ve made strides. This week I holed some putts. That was the main difference.”

Olsen enjoyed a three-shot lead for much of the day as none of his closest pursuers mounted a charge.

First-round leader Cody Proveaux, of Leesville, S.C., birdied three of his first six holes, but his rally ended when he couldn’t birdie the par-5 eighth and 10th holes. He shot 72 and finished ninth.

Olsen’s card featured four birdies and five bogeys, including two of the final three holes. By then it didn’t matter.

“He played awesome,” said Clark, an 18-year-old from Colorado. “He made it tough on us. He definitely won it.”

Olsen lives in the suburbs of Memphis and his father, Brad, is the director of golf/general manager at Colonial Country Club.

Olsen was surrounded by family, including both parents, his younger sister and his grandfather.

His father said Zachary took up the game when he was 9 so he could spend time with his grandfather.

“We didn’t push him,” Brad Olsen said. “He just kind of took off with it.”

Olsen admitted Saturday that he had never held the lead of a major junior event going into the final round, and he said it was “a learning experience.”

He said he went to bed early Saturday night.

“I was exhausted. When I hit the bed I was out,” he said. “My roommate walked in around 11:15 and I didn’t even stir.”

The nerves hit Sunday as he woke up to rainy conditions and 11 players within seven shots of his lead.

“Breakfast didn’t taste very good (Sunday) morning,” he said with a laugh. “Once I got to the range I started settling down. Birdieing the first hole really helped me.”

Olsen is just a junior, so he’ll get to defend his title next year.

For now, he has more immediate goals.

“I want to make the Junior Ryder Cup team,” he said. “Hopefully this will help me.”


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