Ironton's McLaurin closes with exclamation

Friday, August 15, 2008
Jordan McLaurin of Ironton, Mo., talked with other golfers following his win.

Jordan McLaurin knows how to make a closing statement.

He slammed the door on his playing partners and everyone else Thursday in the final round of the AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship by playing 3-under par over the final nine holes.

He wowed the gallery on the 18th hole with a shot that drew gasps, then applause.

And the Ironton teen, who opened the week with a speech about the benefits of AJGA during the junior-am reception, ditched the AJGA outline and delivered his victory speech extemporaneously, and he added a few extra lines.

"I also want to thank the food and beverage staff," he said, "because without them I wouldn't have made it in those pants."

McLaurin, who also made a fashion statement with colorful pants for the opening two rounds, claimed the championship of the second AJGA Dalhousie event with a seven-stroke margin over three runners-up.

If his wardrobe made his play suffer, it didn't show. He was the only player to shoot under par all three days of the 54-hole tournament, finishing with an 8-under total of 208.

KIT DOYLE ~ Jordan McLaurin of Ironton, Mo., watched his drive off the 18th tee Thursday.

"It kind of gets the monkey off the back," said McLaurin, who was playing his final AJGA event and is heading to been close a few times coming into the last round and had a few top-five finishes, but never got the big one."

McLaurin found himself with a four-stroke lead four holes into action Thursday after playing partner and second round co-leader Dustin Korte had a quadruple bogey on No. 4.

"I told myself, 'There's plenty of golf left, there's plenty of golf to get you back in this,'" said Korte, who had opened with rounds of 64 and 73. "It just didn't work. I kept making bogeys here and there."

Korte, from Metropolis, Ill., came in with a 7-over 78 on Thursday to finish in the second-place tie with Landon Lyons (73) and Paul McConnell (71).

If there was any consolation for Korte and the others, it was that McLaurin earned the championship with his play on the back nine after his lead had been trimmed to three, thanks to a double bogey on No. 9.

McLaurin hit into the water on the left side of that fairway, then hit his third shot beyond the green and into the hazard. After a drop, he made a nice chip to tap in for 6.

"I got it back together and started hitting it down the fairway," McLaurin said. "Once I got it in the fairway, I knew I was good to go."

McConnell, who had moved to 3 under with a birdie on 6 while playing in the group ahead of McLaurin, had a bogey on No. 8 and double bogeys on Nos. 9 and 10 to fall back to 2 over.

Lyons three-putted No. 11, as he and Korte made bogeys there to drop to 1 under, leaving McLaurin back in front by four strokes.

And McLaurin was about to unleash his best golf.

"I didn't think he played up to his standards on the front nine," Lyons said. "He played really well on the back, and it's hard to beat a guy who's playing that well."

"Sure enough," Korte said, "on the back, the kid just didn't many any mistakes ... whatsoever. It was just fairway, green, two-putt. It's hard to catch something like that. It's just not going to happen.

"I figured that if I came back and shot a 33, with even par he would still beat me."

Korte, the longest driver of the final threesome, took his best shot at McLaurin on the 327-yard par-4 14th. After McLaurin's tee shot landed in the sand trap, Korte launched his drive onto the green.

"I thought, 'He's got 30 feet for eagle and he can make that. It could be a big swing here,'" McLaurin said. "I took gap wedge right at it and knocked it in to 3 feet."

McLaurin turned that into a birdie, while Korte sent his eagle putt too far past the hole and had to settle for par. The swing went McLaurin's way, extending his lead by one to five strokes.

"After I made birdie on 14, I knew I just needed to make some pars coming in," McLaurin said. "Luckily, I had some shots in close and had some birdies coming in."

McLaurin birdied Nos. 15 and 16 to get to 8 under, six strokes in front of Korte and seven in front of Lyons. All three players bogeyed No. 17, and then McLaurin closed with a little more flair on No. 18.

After hitting his second shot just short of the greenside bunker with the pin in the middle of the 100-yard green, McLaurin put a scare into the crowd when he blistered a shot into the hill that separates the upper and lower tiers of the green. The ball was riding up the hill in the wrong direction before gravity brought it back down within 5 feet of the pin.

"The imagination he had on 18 there is amazing," said Dexter's Chance Holden, a Dalhousie Golf Club member who finished tied for 21st.

"I knew trying to hit a flop shot over the bunker would be impossible to get it close and almost impossible to keep it on the green," McLaurin said. "So I knew if I just bumped one up the hill, the worst I could do was 10 or 15 feet. It was a really big relief to see that one come in there where I didn't have to work."

McLaurin, who picked Missouri State over Memphis and Ole Miss, on Monday told those who attended the junior-am reception that AJGA was instrumental in helping him — "Where I come from, if you don't know, it's pretty rural." — get from Ironton, located about 70 miles northwest of Cape Girardeau, to college golf.

"The college coaches mostly look at the AJGA tournaments and three or four other top-notch junior tournaments," McLaurin said Thursday. "They'll look at how you finish in state high school, but other than that you have to play in these AJGA tournaments to be recognized by the good Division I schools."

McLaurin didn't have anything to prove to college recruiters this week in his final junior golf tournament, but he still got something out of it: a first-place trophy.

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