TUCSON, Ariz. (March 18, 2007)-- Playing in what is most probably his last Arizona Golf Association tournament, University of Arizona senior Josh Wilks, from Tucson, went out in high-style with a tap in birdie putt on the third playoff hole to defeat 15-year-old Andrew Yun of Chandler en route to capturing the Arizona Public Links Championship at Randolph North Golf Course.
Wilks shot two-under 68 for the day and Yun, the only player in the field who posted all three rounds at par or better, was even on the day, as the duo finished regulation four-under-par 206. Defending champion Ken Kellaney, of Phoenix, joined them as the only other player under-par, shooting two-under 208,following his third-round 66.
“It’s a good feeling to win,” Wilks said. “I still always doubt my golf game, because I’m not playing in the top five at school. So when I come out to the AGA events, I try to better because of that. I feel like, winning a tournament is winning a tournament and there is good competition out here.”
The playoff started in dramatic fashion, with Yun sticking his approach shot within three or four feet of the hole. Wilks answered back and his wedge shot rested inside of Yun’s ball, as they both carded birdies.
Routine pars followed on the second hole, but on the 569-yard par-5 third hole, Wilks took advantage of his length of the tee. Taking out a six iron, he was able to reach the green from 205-yards out, leaving himself with a 15-foot eagle putt and ending up with a tap-in birdie. Yun needed three shots to reach the green and missed a 12-footer for birdie to keep the match going.
Wilks started the day two-behind Yun and was two-strokes up through the first seven holes, after two birdies and an eagle-two on the 356-yard par four seventh hole. A bogey-five on the ninth hole for Wilks followed by a birdie three on the 10th hole for Yun evened the match.
Yun regained the lead when Wilks bogeyed the par-3 11th hole, but it didn’t last long as the 15-year-old bogeyed the 12th. Wilks’s regained the lead on the 15th hole, after Yun posted a bogey, but then answered back two holes later for a birdie three, to square the match. The contest was even heading into 18, where both players had trouble off the tee and posted bogey fives.
Wilks, who had a strong season last year in AGA events, was recently honored as the 2006 Mayfair Award winner for lowest stroke average. He won the Falcon Amateur and has four other top five finishes, most notably the Arizona Stroke Play Championship where he finished third. At that event, he shot a course-tying 61 at Lone Tree Golf Club to take the third round lead, and got off to a strong start the next day at the Raven Golf Club at South Mountain, but wasn’t able to maintain his momentum and finished third.
That experience was not lost on the 23-year-old.
“Maybe the experience, having been there before made a difference today,” Wilks said. “Overall, I’m just hitting it better then before and not hitting a lot of bad shots and that kept me in there. I felt a little bit of pressure, during the end of the round. I had played a tournament here before that I lost on the last four or five holes and didn’t want to do that again.”
When overtime started, Wilks was there and ready to go.
“I felt relaxed,” he said. “I just tried to hit it close and put pressure on him.”
Wilks had nothing but high regard for his young challenger.
“He’s a kid capable of shooting a lot better then he shot today," he said. "He hits it as good as anyone I have seen. He doesn’t have any attitude and is completely even keel.
“He’s as nice as he could be,” Wilks added. “He hits it as solid as anyone, and he’s only 15. He hits it far enough for his age. Not only is he competing, but he’s leading, it’s certainly a credit to him.”
After an opening round three-over-par 73, Wilks adjusted the loft on his Titleist irons, which had a big impact on his game. On Sunday, his 52-degree wedge was so hot it is likely he will be taking it out for a wonderful steak dinner.
On the fifth hole, he hit is approach shot on the 429-yard par four to within two feet of the flagstick, then he almost holed the shot on the par-3 sixth when the ball hit the hill, spun back and just lipped out. That was followed up by an eagle-two on the 356-yard seventh, when he knocked the ball in from 130 yards.
As this Wildcats begins to wrap up his amateur career and looks to his future as a professional, he takes a lot with him, most notably learning how to win and overcoming obstacles. This Tucson boy never considered Randolph his home course and says its right-to-left layout doesn’t suit his game. But he worked hard on that prior to entering the Championship and came away with much more than a victory.
For full results, click on the "see also" link at the top of the article.
--Story courtesy Arizona Golf Association