Tyler McDaniel held first place in the Evitt Foundation RTC Junior All-Star for most of the three-day tournament.
But he spent a two-hour weather delay Thursday inside the WindStone Golf Club restaurant knowing that he trailed Zach Healy.
“I had a pretty neutral feeling about it all because I was playing pretty good but I couldn’t get anything going,” said McDaniel, who lives in Manchester, Ky. “I knew Zach was playing well.”
But McDaniel played better after the delay and won his first AJGA tournament in his first attempt on the junior tour.
McDaniel shot a 1-under-par 69 for a three-round total of 6-under 210 to beat the Norcross, Ga., golfer by two strokes. Janet Mao of Johns Creek, Ga., won the girls’ division at 6-over 216.
“I had a good week, but it felt like my score should have been a lot lower than it was,” McDaniel said. “I hit a lot of good shots. At times, my distance-control got off and it frustrated me a bit. But I hung in there and hit good shots in the end and made a couple of putts down the stretch.”
McDaniel closed with two birdies after seven straight pars sandwiching the delay. His approach shot on the par-5 17th sailed long, but he hit a delicate chip and made the putt for birdie. Then on No. 18, feeling that he owned the lead — but not knowing for sure — he hit a hybrid off the tee that left him 179 yards to a tough back-left pin placement. A strong 7-iron left him with an eight-foot putt for birdie.
He made it. He gave a fist-pump and smiled.
“I came through when I had to,” McDaniel said. “I tried to come out [from the delay] and make birdies. I did it on the last two holes.”
Healy shot 2 over after the delay with a double-bogey on the final hole. Learning that McDaniel finished with two birdies eased his pain a little bit.
“I played a really good back nine until the last hole,” said Healy, who shot a final-round 67. “I did enjoy being in the lead. I wasn’t nervous. I wouldn’t say I got a bad break [on 18], but I don’t know how to explain it.”
Mao also double-bogeyed the 18th, but she owned a large enough lead that it didn’t matter. She led after the first two rounds and closed with a 2-over 72.
“Based on how I played, I kind of deserved to win, but I kind of didn’t,” Mao said. “I had a bad hole or two every round, but I managed to keep up and shoot scores that I wanted to.”
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...
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