For The Independent
MOUNT STERLING —
When someone told Sam McGuire what happened Wednesday, he barely reacted.
It was good news, but “barely” was the operative word.
The Russell graduate and University of Pikeville freshman-to-be survived a 12-over par 83 in the Eastern Kentucky Junior Golf Association Walmart Tour event at Mount Sterling Golf and Country Club to grab Boys Grade 11-12 Player of the Year honors by just 50 points over Elliott County sophomore Ryan Gillum.
McGuire finished 10 shots behind Wednesday medalist Evan Cox, and Gillum was second with a 4-over 75. The slight smile was the only acknowledgment McGuire offered.
“Pretty pleased,” McGuire said. “I still wanted to have a better round. I didn't want to cut it close; I wanted to dominate.”
Gillum, meanwhile, pronounced finishing second in the EKJGA a “good season.” He said a different result at a tournament two weeks ago at Bellefonte Country Club (he finished three shots behind Cox) might have given him the POY crown.
“We had the weather delay, so it got shortened to nine holes,” Gillum said. “I was 2-over after nine holes.”
Starting at hole No. 10 Wednesday, McGuire's threesome Wednesday included Gillum and Ryan Maynard III. Gillum's 1-over 36 after nine holes led McGuire and Maynard by three shots.
For McGuire and Maynard, the last nine was like looking for a natural gas leak with a lighter, except no one was hurt.
McGuire: a triple bogey, a double bogey, five bogeys, a par and a birdie. Maynard: three double bogeys, four bogeys, a par and a birdie.
“I don't know what was wrong,” McGuire said. “I couldn't get anything started.”
Cox was “very happy” with his 2-over 73, as he should have been for at least one reason — his eagle on the 335-yard par-4 No. 5 hole. He also said yesterday was a good tuneup for the Region 12 tournament, to be held at Mount Sterling.
“I drove the green,” Cox said. “It was a 50-foot putt (for eagle). There wasn't a whole lot of break; it was a little left-to-right.”
McGuire said there was no single part of his game that needed to improve before going to UPike. “I'm going to have to work on everything,” he said. “I'm going to have to bust my butt. I'm going to have to earn my spot.'
It was a good thing Ashland sophomore Tate Justus clinched the boys grade 9-10 title Monday at Eagle Trace Golf Course near Morehead. Wednesday, he floundered to a 20-over 91 and finished 18 shots behind medalist Hunter Holbrook.
Justus won six of eight tournaments this summer. Yesterday, he talked about: the 1-under 69 he shot at the EKJGA tournament at Paintsville Golf and Country Club (“That was the first time I'd scored under par in any tournament,” he said); how his ball control has greatly improved; and how he was thankful for the opportunity to play.
As for Wednesday …
“I'd better not talk about that,” he said. “I didn't play the best, I didn't hit fairways.”
Holbrook, of Sandy Hook, mentioned the five or six one-putts he drained over the final nine holes, but something else made it a wonderful Wednesday.
“I've shot in the 80s, I've shot it in the 90s,” Holbrook said. “This is the first time I've scored in the 70s this year.”
Connor Calhoun won the boys Grade 3-under POY, and Evan Goble did the same in Grade 4-6.
“It means a lot to me; I came in second last year,” Calhoun said. “I made a lot of good putts. I made a 10-foot birdie (on No. 7); it broke to the left.”
Goble said his title was special “because I've never won one.”
Walters, Salyers top girls
Boyd County eighth-grader McKinzie Walters won her third straight girls POY trophy. She won her second consecutive Grade 7-9 title to go with the 4-6 championship in 2011.
So which championship stands out?
“Last year, because I moved up,” Walters said. “This year, I've been hitting better. I got new clubs, I've built my strength up.”
Walters won Wednesday with a 90. She said her drives were the best part of her round because “they were going 220 (yards).”
Russell sophomore Baylee Salyers took the Grade 10-12 title. She was as taciturn as McGuire about her win.
“People say you should be excited,” Salyers said. “I am excited, I just don't show it.”
Salyers said yesterday her chipping and putting saved her sometimes erratic drives.
“I've been happy with my short game the whole season,” she said. “(Wednesday), I just noticed it as a strength. It all kind of tied in for a good round.”