Par on 18 clinches one-shot win

Thursday, July 9, 2009 7:31 PM
Last updated 8:13 PM
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Drew Czuchry didn’t realize a short par putt on the final hole had won him the Charles Howell III Junior Championship.

It took some 15 minutes for his elation to escape, when he stepped out of a television interview, grabbed a victory Sprite and grinned.

“I mean I was playing good,” he practically hollered at a friend.

Crucial pars on the final two holes helped Czuchry hold on for a one-shot victory today on the final day of the three-round event at West Lake Country Club.

Czuchry shot 72 to finish at 3-under-par 213, one shot better than Max Van Dresser and Lakeside senior Kelby Burton, who fired one of the craziest 71s you will ever see. Anna Kim, of Arizona, closed a wire-to-wire win in the girls division with a final-round 76 to finish five shots ahead of a group that included Augusta’s Taylor Ramsey.

Czuchry, a home-schooled 17-year-old from Auburn, Ga., stuck a 6 iron to the middle of the green on the 17th, his most critical shot. The 165-yard par-3 with its front-right pin had given the final groups fits. Consider: Drew Aimone was tied for the lead when his tee shot splashed into the water for double bogey. Burton lost his first shot right, then nearly chipped in from under a tree. He made a wild par. Czuchry’s playing partner, Robert Jacobson, entered the 17th tied for the lead, but made bogey from nearly the same spot as Burton.

Czuchry saved par with a 5-footer after he left his first putt short. He laid up on the 514-yard par-5 18th, wedged well above the hole and two-putted. He said he thought someone in an earlier group would have posted a better score.

“I hit the ball well all week,” he said. “This is all new to me.”

Burton absorbed post-round compliments from family and friends with an amused look on his face.

“I learned a lot,” he said, seeking to apply context on a round that included a triple bogey, an eagle, a self-policed penalty stroke and two difficult scrambling pars on back-nine par-3s.

Jerry Ruiz, of Mexico, who started the day with a one-stroke lead, shot 78 to fade out of the top 10.

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