Birdie chip wins tournament

Friday, June 22, 2007
Katie Sylvan passed her AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship winner's trophy to her father Paul on Thursday. The trophy weighed about 15 pounds. (Kit Doyle)

Katie Sylvan's chip for a birdie on 18 ended up giving her the victory.

Katie Sylvan's chip shot flopped onto the 18th green and started rolling.

And rolling.

It didn't stop until it dropped into the middle of the cup for a birdie. When it did, a gigantic smile appeared on her face and the crowd gathered around the hole roared with excitement.

But the shot didn't clinch the girls championship. It only got her within one stroke of 13-year old Emma Talley, who'd enjoyed at least a share of the lead since the third hole Thursday.

Talley's lengthy bogey putt that would have forced a playoff stayed left of the hole, handing Sylvan her first outright lead of the day and the 2007 AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship girls title at Dalhousie Golf Club.

"We were in the scoring tent when they finished," said Sylvan, who played in the group ahead of Talley. "They told me [I[']d won]."

Sylvan shot a 3-over 75 in the final round and finished at 12-over 228. Talley shot a 5-over 77 and finished at 13-over 229.

It's the second career win for Sylvan on the American Junior Golf Association tour, her first coming last year in Grand Blanc, Mich. But that victory came in a playoff, not like Thursday's when she won it with her most memorable shot in competition.

"I knew it was good, I wasn't sure how good," Sylvan said of the chip. "That's a tough little valley down there. Who knows what could happen?"

It didn't look like Sylvan, a junior-to-be from San Diego, had a shot at winning after she ran into trouble on the front nine. She grabbed a share of the lead with Talley for two holes before a bogey on six, a double-bogey on seven and a bogey on eight left her four shots back. Talley made the turn with a three-stroke lead over Devon Brown of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., who had scooted into second place.

"On the front, I don't know, something was going wrong," said Sylvan, who never stopped smiling after her victory. "I figured when I made the turn, I just had to kind of get it together and just play solid. I didn't have to try and force the birdies. They would eventually come, and go for pars. That was my mentality on the back nine. I wasn't making very many putts on the front nine."

Meanwhile on the front nine, Talley, who lives in Princeton, Ky., was the model of consistency. She scored a par on the last six holes on the front nine.

"I think I was just concentrating on par all the time, not trying to get birdies or anything," Talley said. "I was trying to get on the greens in regulation and two-putt. I think that really helped me out."

Talley's streak of seven straight pars ended on No. 12 with a bogey, then she bogeyed No. 13, too. That's where Brown grabbed a quick share of the lead after carding a birdie on No. 13.

Brown didn't last long atop the leaderboard as she hit her second shot on the par-4 No. 14 over the green and into deep, thick grass. She ended up with a double-bogey and didn't challenge again.

"I think I was just getting wrapped up in everything," Brown said of No. 14. "There was a lot more people starting to gather around and I just lost my focus.

"It's just hard to concentrate. You're thinking about everything else instead of your shot. I guess you're trying to impress them, but at the same time, trying to focus."

The tournament came down to No. 18 with Talley leading by two strokes. The problem is that no one told her she had a two-stroke lead. Standard bearers walked with each group, but Talley and Sylvan were in different groups. Talley said she didn't think Sylvan posed a threat because the last time she'd seen Sylvan's score, she was four or five strokes back. Little did Talley know that Sylvan had cut Talley's lead to one with the chip.

"I heard [the reaction to the chip]," Talley said. "I saw her on about 15 and I thought it said 15 or 16 [over par]. I had no clue that she was even close."

Talley stepped to the tee on No. 18 and unleashed another drive, but for only the fourth time all round, it didn't find the fairway. Instead, it ended up stuck in a bunker. She tried to shoot out of it on her next shot, but to no avail.

"I was right against the lip and my ball was sunk in," Talley said. "I didn't know what to do. I just hit it. No luck."

She finally got to the green in five shots, meaning she had a lengthy putt for bogey to force a playoff after Sylvan's chip for birdie.

"I talked to another kid who had that same putt," Talley said. "When you look at it, it looks like it's going to break just a little left and it breaks a couple feet left. I couldn't really tell that by looking at it. But I saw Courtney's [Harter] putt before me and I knew it was going to break more than I thought, so I played it a little bit outside what I thought."

It stayed to the left, dashing her hopes for the title.

Talley admitted she would have played No. 18 differently if she'd known she had a two-shot lead.

"If I had even known that I could sink bogey and been tied, I would have played a whole different game on the last hole," she said. "I probably would have hit like a 5-wood off the tee and not even get close to the sand."

She even went to the practice green after finding out she had only needed a bogey on No. 18 to force a playoff. But she wasn't trying to relive the missed putt.

"I was just trying to get all the heat off me," she said. "I was so mad. I mean on 18, you can't ask for that every day."

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