Aggressive approach pays off

Friday, June 22, 2007
Standard bearer Jennifer Coad switches scores during the AJGA Dalhousie Junior Classic on Thursday, June 21, 2007. (Kit Doyle)

Spinella tried to be conservative but that got him into trouble.

Dalhousie presented a stiff challenge that few golfers could solve, which led to an array of strategies among the leaders in the final round.

There were only seven rounds under par during the three-day AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship, and three of them came during the final round Thursday. Ty Spinella, the boys champion, said he didn't care how tough the course had played, he planned to attack during the final round.

"I definitely from the start didn't think I could sit back," he said. "If I was going to win, I was going to have to go out there and get it myself. I just needed to get off to a good early start and I could just work my way from there. If I got down early then I'd have to battle back and couldn't put pressure on my opponents early. I needed to put pressure on them early and that's what I did."

It worked for him as he shot a 5-under 67.

Alex Knoll, of Westphalia, Mo., followed his shot on the seventh hole during Thursday's final round. (Kit Doyle)

Devon Brown said she approached the course the same way heading into the final round. It paid off early as she grabbed a share of the lead for a hole on the back nine.

"I think I mostly wanted to go after the course and try for some birdies," Brown said. "There really was nothing to lose and I wanted to win."

Stephanie Wagstaff, who entered the final round with a two-stroke lead in the girls division, tried a different approach.

"I tried to play it conservative," she said. "I think it was tougher today."

Spinella, who opened a big lead on the back nine, said he considered toning it down and playing conservative on the closing holes. But an adventure on No. 13 quickly changed his mind.

Michael Moore recorded the final boys division standings on the Dalhousie scoreboard after the AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship ended Thursday.

"On 13, I knew that I had six holes left and I had a five- or six-shot lead," he said. "I didn't want to do anything stupid there and put it in the bunker and make a big number there. I just fired away from the flag. I was too conservative and had a really long putt. I was sitting there on the next tee thinking do I go conservative or do I just keep playing my game. I was like you know what, I'm going to keep playing my game."

He ended up winning by seven strokes.

One big paperweight

Katie Sylvan, the girls champion, and Spinella each received a trophy that resembled one of the towers on the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. Each trophy weighed about 15 pounds.

"I've had some different ones, but they've been more golf trophies," Spinella said. "But that thing is massive. It's great."

Hanule Seo of St. Louis checked her yardage book on the 10th hole of the AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship on Thursday. (Kit Doyle)

Sylvan, who lives in San Diego, said she won't have to worry about how to get the large, awkward trophy onto a plane. Her father planned to stop by a UPS store and ship it home before leaving town.

Spinella, who lives in Aledo, Texas, planned to drive home, so he won't have to worry about airport security. He said the trophy will have its own seat in the car, but it will definitely be buckled in.

"I'm telling you, I have to watch out for that thing," he joked. "If I fall asleep and that thing falls on me, I'm in trouble."

Home-schooled champion

Spinella would have been able to call himself a state high school champion this year as the team from Aledo, Texas, captured the Class 4A title by ending a seven-year run of crowns for Highland Park.

Devon Brown, right, and Katie Sylvan lined up putts on the ninth green Thursday. (Kit Doyle)

But Spinella does not attend Aledo High School. The Aledo resident has been home-schooled since the sixth grade -- and by his own choice.

"He didn't like what was going on in school academically, so he wanted to be home-schooled," said his mother, Mindy Campbell.

Spinella hasn't regretted that decision, even though he knew Aledo High School had a good chance of dethroning Highland Park this year.

"Yeah, I knew they might win state," he said. "But I kind of knew from the beginning that I wouldn't be going there, so it didn't really bother me not being a part of it. But I was really happy for them."

Spinella actually plays for a high school golf team made up of home-schooled students, but the University Interscholastic League -- which governs high school sports in Texas -- prohibits home-schooled squads in all sports from participating in postseason play.

AJGA Dalhousie Junior Classic winner Ty Spinella waited with his trophy to take photos with other players after the tournament on Thursday, June 21, 2007. (Kit Doyle)

Where am I?

The summer is filled with tons of traveling, weeks away from home and a different town each week, and the junior golfers said the grueling schedule starts to take a toll after a while.

"It's tough to actually travel -- a lot of long car rides," said Wagstaff, who lives in Asheville, N.C. "We'll drive eight or nine hours. It's been like every week. I went to Memphis the first week in June. Every week, I leave on Sunday and then I come back Friday at about 4 in the morning."

Even though they're away from their friends and home for extended periods, there are benefits to playing in AJGA events.

"You get to come to all these new places and you get to meet all these new people and play these different golf courses and they're all so diverse," Sylvan said.

Brown, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., said the key is to focus on the positives of being on the road instead of thinking about what's going on at home.

"It's definitely hard," Brown said. "There's the beach back home, all your friends, going to the mall and hanging out. It's definitely rewarding, all your hard work, coming out here and doing well."

Playing tough

Sylvan was the only girls player to have an even-par round, shooting a 72 on Wednesday when she bounced back from an opening 81. She was even on 15 of her 18 holes the first day but had triple bogeys on Nos. 1, 5 and 10. The fifth is a par-3 and the others are par-4 holes.

She played the par-4 12th hole with bogey, bogey and par in her three rounds. That hole was the toughest for the girls this week with an average of 5.12. The par-4 fourth hole was the easiest at 4.40.

In Thursday's final round, the par-4 16th played the hardest at 5.00, while the par-4 ninth was the easiest at 4.26.

The par-5 18th on Thursday yielded only two out of 19 scores that were worse than bogey, but one of those belonged to Emma Talley, who dropped into second with a double-bogey.

The 18th was the easiest for the boys all week, scoring at 4.66 on Thursday and 4.92 for the tourney.

It was the only hole to play below par every day and one of three -- along with Nos. 7 and 15 -- to do so Thursday.

The hardest hole for the boys Thursday again was No. 10, the par 4 with the tee shot over the water. After scoring at 4.71 for the final round, it scored at 4.71 for the tourney.

Celebrating an anniversary

Darrell and Barbara Waisner of Springfield, Mo., said they could not have imagined a better anniversary present.

The Waisners spent the week in Cape Girardeau following their grandson -- Spinella -- around Dalhousie Golf Course. Wednesday was their 53rd wedding anniversary.

"We wouldn't have wanted to be any place other than here," Darrell said. "And him winning the tournament made it even better."

Added Barbara during Thursday's final round: "We had some signs on our cart [Wednesday] congratulating us on our anniversary. It's been a lot of fun out here."

Above and beyond

The Dalhousie tournament left an impression on AJGA players and their parents.

"The AJGA puts on fantastic tournaments every week but it doesn't compare to this week," said Spinella, who was playing in his third of four AJGA tournaments this summer. "The whole city of Cape Girardeau came out and did their part, times 10. It was amazing."

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