GLEN ALLEN, VA (July 28, 2016) -- Kurtis Grant insists the celebration was spontaneous.
Stuck on the apron behind the 18th green at The Federal Club Thursday afternoon, he said he was just trying to get up and down for par, hoping to send the 64th VSGA Junior Stroke Play Championship to a playoff. Instead, his putt trickled onto the green, down a slope and into the hole, 30 feet away, eliciting an excited roar from those following the tournament. Grant raised his putter high over his head and pumped his fist, the birdie putt sending him into the lead for good.
“It kind of just came out,” Grant said afterward.
He still had to sweat out Dylan Taylor’s 18th hole. But when Taylor’s putt, from a similar spot off the green, stopped mere inches from the cup, Grant had secured the tournament championship.
The 16-year-old from Herndon, who is a member at Army Navy Country Club, won his second VSGA championship in the last eight months. He won the 1st VSGA Junior Golf Circuit title last November at the Country Club of Virginia.
“I’ve seen Lanny Wadkins, I’ve seen Curtis Strange, all great players,” said Grant, whose named will be added to the F.J.D. Mackay Trophy alongside those legends. “I’m honored to have my name engraved on the same trophy that they’re on.”
Grant shot a final-round 69 for a three-day 212, one shot better than Taylor (The Dominion Club), who shot an even-par 72 Thursday and finished at 213. Charlie Musto (Trump National GC) also shot a 72 and finished at 214. Lance Wheeler (Hobbs Hole GC) used a final-round 69 to vault into fourth place at 215. Adam Hade (The Dominion Club) rounded out the top 5 at 218 after also shooting a 3-under 69 on Thursday.
Grant birdied three of his final five holes to surge into the lead. When he walked to the 16th green, he inquired about how Taylor, who was in the group behind him, was playing. Some players choose to ignore the scoreboard during tense situations. Grant wanted to know exactly where he stood.
“Having your fate resting in your hands, that’s why I play golf,” Grant said. “Just the thrill, how fun it is, the tension. I love it.”
Taylor made bogey on No. 15 when his approach went long and he wasn’t able to get up and down from the apron for par. With that information in hand, Grant nearly chipped in for eagle on No. 16 and settled for a tap-in birdie to gain a share of the lead.
Taylor made his last birdie at No. 10 and played the last eight holes at 2 over, giving Grant an opening, which he seized. The Federal Club does not allow chipping around its practice putting green, so Grant didn’t have a great feel for chipping so close to the hole. He turned to his putter instead.
“The whole week, I’ve been putting from the fairway there, even if I had to hit it up a huge slope,” Grant said. “It’s kind of hard to find your chipping swing, because you don’t know how it’s going to check. I know how the putts roll on the greens, and on the fringe, it’s the same way. So why not keep it up off the green?”
Taylor had a wedge into 18 for his approach, but the ball went long and left of the hole, leaving him nearly an identical shot to Grant’s. He almost had the same result, too, until the putt broke at the last second.
“Right when I hit it, I thought it was going to go in,” Taylor said. “Then about two feet (out), it must have hit something. It got off line. But all congrats to (Grant), though. He played a great round today.”
Taylor, a rising senior at Benedictine in Richmond, doesn’t start his final high-school season until the spring, when Virginia’s private schools compete. Grant, a rising junior at South Lakes High School in Reston, will head right into the prep season starting next week.
“It builds confidence, knowing that you won your state championship,” Grant said. “The best players in the state are here, and I walked away with the trophy. I’ve got a lot of tournaments coming up, and I need to keep going. I don’t want this to be my only one. I want to keep playing the way I’ve been playing.”
View results for Virginia Junior Amateur Golf Championship