DALLAS, Tex. (June 26, 2014) —Chandler Phillips’ mother says her son plays his best golf when he’s loose, playful and having fun. The 17-year-old from Huntsville clearly was having a blast throughout the first 50 holes of the HP Byron Nelson Junior Championship at Northwood Club. After a record-setting second round performance, Phillips left the rest of the elite 78-player field in his dust, scrambling for second place.
Despite a few hiccups during Thursday’s closing four holes of the prominent Legends Junior Tour event, Phillips held it together for a stirring five-shot victory. He finished with a three-round total of 8-under-par 202.
Playing with a huge lead all day, Phillips turned in a final round score of 2-over 72. He held off Michael Perras from Pasadena to claim the coveted championship. Perras shot rounds of 71-68-68 to total 3-under 207 and earn second place by a margin of four shots. Andrew Paysee from Temple took third place at 1-over 211. Houston’s Walker Lee was fourth at 2-over 212, and Ryan Grider from Lewisville finished fifth at 3-over 213.
Phillips joins a list of prestigious winners of the event that includes Jordan Spieth, Cody Gribble and Charlie Holland. Even a double bogey on the penultimate hole and triple bogey to close couldn’t keep a smile off the face of the Huntsville High School senior.
"This means so much. It really does,” said Phillips, who broke Hunter Mahan’s competitive course record at Northwood with a brilliant second round 62 that featured an eagle, six birdies and no bogeys. "Up to No. 15 today, these last two days have been the best golf of my life. It was fun. Every iron shot I hit felt like it was going to be within 10-15 feet.”
That certainly was the case Wednesday. He took a nine-shot lead into Thursday’s final round at historic Northwood Club, which hosted the 1952 U.S. Open won by Julius Boros. Phillips, who has verbally committed to Texas A&M, said he didn’t think too much about his substantial lead headed into the final round. Rather, he said he tried to shoot another 62 like the day before.
"I was on my way to doing it until I made some bad swings coming in,” said Phillips, who also won the LJT’s Texas Cup in 2012. "I think I got tired and everything caught up to me at the end.”
With mother Kris in the gallery and father Keith as his caddie, the week was a family affair for Phillips. Kris said her husband helps keep their son in the lighthearted, bouncy mood in which he plays his best.
"This is so wonderful,” Kris said, "especially considering I don’t get to watch him play very often. Keith and Chandler – I call him ‘Goose’ – are best friends. Keith keeps him calm and they have so much fun together.”
Phillips said as much, too, and added that he might have taken his father’s help for granted down the stretch.
"We were doing so great, and I should have kept listening to him,” Phillips said. "He keeps it light and fun. It’s when I start taking it too seriously and get frustrated that things happen like they just did right there on 18.”
Regardless of the messy finish, Phillips’ 54-hole score of 202 broke the tournament scoring record of 203 set by Spieth in 2009. The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and three-time Byron Nelson Junior champ shot rounds of 72-62-69 to post 10-under 203 at Lakewood Country Club, a par 71 course. For this year’s Byron Nelson Junior, Northwood played to 6,877 yards as a par 70.
"Heck, I watched Cody and Jordan win a national championship at Texas,” Phillips said. "I watch Jordan play on the PGA Tour, and he won this tournament three years in a row. For my name to be put on that trophy next to theirs it’s an honor. It really is.”
Peggy Nelson, the widow of the tournament’s namesake and greatest ambassador the game has ever known, was in attendance Thursday. She watched the final groups finish up on the 18th hole from the shade of one Northwood’s hundreds of century-old oak trees.
"I love this event,” she said. "It’s so special to see these young boys at this level playing so well. And I know that they’ll go on to do some great things. Some may become club professionals or play the PGA Tour like Jordan Spieth. I know Byron would be proud.”
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