The 17-year old Texan broke the competitive course record

Friday, June 22, 2007
Ty Spinella acknowledged the crowd after putting out on the 18th hole to win the AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship on Thursday. (Kit Doyle)

Spinella shot a 5-under 67 to win the title by seven shots.

Ty Spinella is a home-schooled 17-year-old from Texas.

Thursday he schooled the field -- and the golf course -- to run away with the title in the AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship.

Spinella's only regret after his record-setting round of 5-under-par 67 that resulted in a 54-hole score of 4-under 212 and a seven-shot victory?

That his cousin and best friend Amy wasn't around to witness his accomplishment.

Texan Ty Spinella hunkered down for a better view of his iron shot Thursday at Dalhousie Golf Club.

But Spinella has no doubt she watched it all from above.

"I know she had something to do with it," Spinella said. "I know she was with me."

Spinella's cousin was killed in an automobile accident three months ago. Amy was 18, six months older than Ty.

"We were best friends, as close as anybody could be to someone," Spinella said. "I dedicated this to her, from the first tee to the last tee."

Spinella knew that Amy would normally have been following him around the course this week.

But it's not like he was devoid of family.

Mindy Campbell, Spinella's mother, watched his every shot, as did her parents, Darrell and Barbara Waisner of Springfield, Mo.

"It was great having my mom and my grandparents here," Spinella said. "They really supported me."

Campbell, who was Amy's aunt, said she considered her son's performance in Cape Girardeau a blessing for the entire family.

"Amy was my only sister's daughter. We all lost a wonderful person who left us much too young," said Campbell, choking back tears. "Ty was so broke up, he didn't even know if he could continue playing in these tournaments for a while.

"It has been a rough few months for the entire family, but this is just a blessing for us."

Spinella, who is from Aledo, Texas -- about 20 miles from Fort Worth -- entered Thursday's final round in a second-place tie, three strokes behind Tyler Brown of Lee's Summit, Mo.

He was that close because of Wednesday's 1-under 71, the best score of the second round.

Spinella, who has one year of high school remaining, assumed he was still very much in the championship hunt.

Little did he know he would smoke the field with Dalhousie's best-ever round in a competitive event. The previous low score was 68.

"I knew anything can happen," Spinella said of his outlook entering Thursday. "I just had to go out and shoot a good round."

He did that and more.

Spinella made three birdies on the front nine for a 2-under 34 that pushed him to 1-under for the tournament and the outright lead over fast-charging William Hunt of Paducah, Ky.

"I really wanted to get off to a good start," Spinella said.

Hunt, who began the final round five shots off the pace and two shots behind Spinella, played the first eight holes in 3-under to get to even for the tournament.

But Hunt could not keep up that torrid pace, while Brown faltered badly with an 80 and Drew Miller of Clarksville, Tenn. -- who began the last round even with Spinella at 145 -- also failed to make up significant ground.

That left things wide open for Spinella to run away from the field -- which he did by posting four more birdies on the back nine for a 3-under 33 to finish off his 5-under 67.

"The first day [a 2-over 74], I hit it great and just didn't make any putts," said Spinella, who played in a final pairing with Brown and Miller. "Yesterday I made some putts. Today I hit it good and made putts.

"I never expected to win by this much. It's pretty unbelievable."

Spinella, who had only two bogeys Thursday, could have potentially started to unravel after a bogey on No. 11.

But he answered right back with a birdie, a tough par and another birdie to build a five-shot lead with just four holes remaining.

Spinella made two nice par saves on 15 and 16, then had a routine par on 17.

As he went to 18, his lead was six shots and the only question left was whether he would break the course record for a competitive event.

Spinella again answered the challenge as he birdied the par-5 hole, which brought hearty applause from the appreciative gallery.

"I congratulate him. That was a good last round, what you want to do," said Hunt, a recent high school graduate who tied for second at 219 after an even-par 72. "It was awesome."

Tyler Mitchell, who will be a high school senior in Cadiz, Ky., shot a 1-over 73 and matched Hunt at 219.

Miller, also a high school senior-to-be, was fourth at 220 after a final-round 75.

But the day belonged to Spinella, whose previous best finish in an AJGA tournament was a tie for fourth last August.

"It's been a pretty emotional week, and when I was in the scorer's tent it hit me pretty good," Spinella said. "I don't know that it's all really sunk in yet, but it feels great."

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