DALLAS – Minutes after he won the most prestigious junior tournament in his career, the Byron Nelson Junior Championship, Lewisville’s Ryan Grider on Thursday wasn’t about to get pinned down by a trick question.
He had just labored through a sun-splashed, steaming-hot day when Lakewood Country Club played its toughest to survive a sudden-death, two-hole playoff against Plano’s Pierceson Coody. Both finished the 54-hole invitational at 1-under-par 212. By making the fewest mistakes down the stretch, Grider held off Pierceson and a host of other worthy pursuers to win what he called “the one local tournament he’s always wanted to win.”
So he wasn’t going to going to slip up when he was asked what meant more to him: winning a tournament that reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth won three times as a junior or winning a tournament named after one of the icons of the game, five-time major winner Lord Byron Nelson.
“I can’t answer that one,” said a smiling Grider, who won the second playoff hole with a two-putt bogey. “They both mean the world to me. Let’s just call it a tie.”
The championship was Grider’s fifth Legends Junior Tour title; he was the 2014 Boys Player of the Year and won the Collegiate Preview in 2014 and ’15.
Grider and Coody were deadlocked at 3-under par overall after 12 holes in the final round, but a plugged lie in a greenside bunker led to a double-bogey for Coody. Grider made a par and walked off the green with a two-shot lead. Over the next hour, Grider’s advantage evaporated. A three-putt bogey for Grider on the par-4 16th, followed by a slick, 12-foot birdie from Coody on the tricky par-5 17th led to an all-square scenario on the final hole. Both made pars on the 18th, a 417-yard, downhill, dogleg-left par 4.
After signing their scorecards, Grider and Coody returned to the 18th tee for the playoff. Pars for both the first time around, and they went back to the tee again.
Grider pushed his tee shot into the right rough, and his approach shot finished a few yards short of the green. Coody’s tee shot finished on the far left side of the fairway. Overhanging tree limbs partially blocked his path to the green. Coody’s approach shot sailed over the green, hit a cart path and landed out of bounds. He ended up making a double-bogey on the hole, which allowed Grider to ease in a two-putt from 10 feet to win.
“It means to the world to me to win this tournament. Someday I hope to play in the PGA Tour’s (AT&T) Byron Nelson Championship,” Grider said.
“I thought Pierceson hit a good shot, but it kept flying over the green. I feel horribly for him because we both grinded it out so hard today.”
First round leader Eduardo Carrete finished in third place at 1-over 214 after an even-par effort in the final round. Five players tied for fourth place at 3-over 216. A combination of the final round pressure, ever-quickening greens and gusty, often swirling winds led to the toughest playing conditions of the week.
Only two of the 30 players who made the 36-hole cut shot under par. Blaine Hale Jr. from Dallas fired a 2-under 69 to finish in ninth place at 4-over 217. Sam Bennett from Madisonville shot 1-under 70 and finished tied for 10th. Everyone else in the elite field backed up on Thursday. Grider shot 3-over 74; Coody posted 4-over 75.
“Greens were tough out there, and the pin positions were really difficult,” Grider said. “I’m not surprised the scores were higher today.”
The premier LJT event, the Byron Nelson Junior has been played at Lakewood CC in 14 of its 16 years of existence. This was the first time in the history of the event that a playoff occurred.
For at least one of the approximately 100 people gathered around the 18th green during the playoff, the nostalgia was palpable. Justin Fraley, who won the third Byron Nelson Junior Championship in 2002, said he was impressed by the play.
“This definitely brings back old memories,” Fraley said. “Winning this event was really important. It was a huge stepping stone for me.”
Nelson’s widow Peggy also was on hand for the final round. She buzzed around Lakewood CC in a golf cart, taking in the action and congratulated the top finishers once play concluded.
“Byron would be really proud and especially pleased for our wonderful champion,” she said.
Opened in 1912, Lakewood is the second-oldest club in Dallas. It was designed by Scotland native Thomas Bendelow, who also designed nearby Dallas CC and River Crest CC in Fort Worth.
Though the course has seen several renovations since its inception, the designers responsible have stayed true to Bendelow’s original layout. “The club takes a lot of pride in the event,” Head Professional Gilbert Freeman said. “It started here with Darrell Crall, Malcolm Holland and myself. It’s become what we wanted it to become: the best junior golf tournament in Texas.”
View results for HP Byron Nelson Junior Championship