McConnell's early charge, Korte's booming drives only good enough for second

Friday, August 15, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ Landon Lyons of Louisiana chipped onto the 17th green Thursday during the final round of the AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship. Lyons tied for second place.

About the only common link in Thursday's final round of the AJGA Dalhousie Junior Championship for Paul McConnell, Dustin Korte and Landon Lyons was that it became clear pretty early they were playing for second place.

They all got it.

Jordan McLaurin coasted away with the championship by seven strokes. McConnell, Korte and Lyons all finished 1 under par at 215 strokes over the three-day, 54-hole tournament.

McConnell was the only one of the trio to shoot under par Thursday, posting a 1-under 71 that also made him the only player in the trio to shoot under par in two rounds. Playing in the event for the second year after tying for 16th last year, McConnell shot 70 on Wednesday after opening with a 74.

He made the best early move among the players in the last two groups in the final round, recording birdies on Nos. 3, 4 and 6 to get to 3 under and within three strokes of the lead.

"I didn't feel nervous at all," McConnell said. "I thought I could come back and make everything. I had a lot of one-putts."

But he found some trouble around the turn, bogeying No. 8 and then posting double bogeys on Nos. 9 and 10 to fall back to 2 over. On those doubles, the 5-iron betrayed him.

Paul McConnell of Texas chipped onto the green during Thursday's final round.

"I thought I hit a good 5-iron onto the green [on No. 9] but ended up in the rough," said McConnell, who also had to drop after his drive went into the right-side hazard. "On 10, I had a good drive down the left side. The wind picked up and was blowing into our faces, so I hit an easy 5 with a little fade, but it took a little hop into the deep stuff."

McConnell recovered with birdies on Nos. 12, 14 and 15. He spied a leaderboard for the group behind him on 17 and knew he could still finish in second place.

"I needed to birdie 17 or 18 or both," he said.

He got his birdie on 18.

The Garland, Texas, resident this year will be going for his third consecutive Class 6 state championship in Texas private schools association, TAPPS, which would surpass the number also won by current professional golfer Matt Weibring.

McConnell, who will be a senior at Bishop Lynch in Dallas, also has his eyes on an AJGA title.

"That's probably my next goal," he said. "My first goal was to get fully exempt and I did that last week. I've placed and then I got second place, now I want to win. I've got one more year."

Korte also has one more year, as the Metropolis, Ill., resident heads into his senior season at Massac County.

The Dalhousie tournament was his second AJGA event and he left with second-place hardware and the course record, a 64 he shot in the first round.

But Thursday did not turn out as he hoped. He lost his share of the lead with a quadruple-bogey on No. 4 and could not recover on his way to a 6-over 78.

"My thought process was 'Don't make mistakes,' and unfortunately I did," he said. "I made a lot of mistakes.

"My bunker play was awful. As far as putting, I didn't make too many bad strokes. I just couldn't get one to fall."

Korte was impressive with his hitting length on the back nine. He made birdie on the par-5 15th after hitting his second shot just beyond the green. He drove to the middle of the green on the 327-yard, par-4 14th hole, and he was on the green in two in good position on the par-5 18th hole.

"And then I three-putted," he said. "I three-putted 14 and 18 [to end up with pars]. I mean, as far as hitting the ball, I'm hitting the ball well and striking it well. Just these greens. They were different speeds every day. They were faster today than they were the first day, and I didn't adjust. I was hitting it past the hole again today."

McLaurin said the speed differential came from pin placements, with the first round offering holes on relatively flat plateaus and the later rounds featuring more inclines around the holes.

Korte, who said he blew up after being as high as third in his previous AJGA event, enjoyed this experience a little more, though he was disappointed about not challenging McLaurin in the end.

"It's just going to make me a better player," Korte said.

Lyons, also a state champion high school golfer now heading into his junior year at Episcopal in Baton Rouge, La., thought he merely would have a front-row seat for the championship battle between playing partners McLaurin and Korte.

"Basically, I really didn't think I was going to win because, I mean, five shots is a lot to gain," Lyons said. "I was just thinking about going out there and not making any mistakes, and hopefully they would make mistakes, but they didn't."

But Lyons also was in the hunt, three strokes back after McLaurin's double bogey on No. 9.

"After 10, I was three shots back, but I bogeyed the next hole and he birdied [14] and it went away pretty quick," Lyons said. "My hitting wasn't too good. I hit it a lot better the second day, but today I hit it really bad and hit like five greens. My chipping and putting was good."

Happiest with his play Thursday was Josh Alford of Marion, Ark., who picked up a token for the best round of the day. He finished with a 68 after shooting 31 on the back nine with birdies on Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and had an eagle on 18.

Even after all that, Alford, who was 3 over and in 10th place through the first two rounds, was ready to head home.

"I was about ready to leave until I saw a few of the scores that were ahead of me were pretty high," he said.

Sure enough, Alford's even-par total of 216 was good for fifth place and even more hardware.

While McLaurin, now heading to college, won't be back next summer when Dalhousie hosts the AJGA's Rolex Tournament of Champions, the runners-up could be back, though they will have to continue contending for tournament titles to get an invite.

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