New York Junior: Merkulov wins on 18

ONEONTA, N.Y. (Aug. 6, 2008)--Yaroslav Merkulov claimed his first New York State Junior title today with a final round 72 for a one stroke victory over Bryce Edmister and defending champion Dominic Bozzelli.

The trio came to the 18th tee with Merkulov and Bozzelli tied at 1 under par for the tournament, 1-over-par for the day, with Edmister one behind at even par for the tournament and 2-over-par for the day.

Bozzelli drove first, finishing pin-high but to the left of the green on the short par-4, with Merkulov and Edmister long and short of the putting surface respectively. Merkulov chipped well from a downhill lie to leave himself 12 feet for birdie, while Edmister, from an easier uphill lie, was able to chip to within a few feet.

Bozzelli then hit under his delicate pitch and left the ball in the rough short of the green, recovering to make par but allowing Merkulov the opportunity to make his putt to clinch the title.

Faced with an uphill left-to-right putt Merkulov calmly stroke the ball into the right-center of the cup and with it gained vengeance for his near miss on the eighteenth green last year, where he finished runner-up to Bozzelli.

Edmister was able to hole his putt for a three to tie Bozzelli on 143, one back of Merkulov’s 142 total.

“I figured after I made bogey on 16 that Dom had the momentum and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to come in with a couple of pars and win, because those last two holes are probably the most getable,” said Merkulov. “I told myself to refocus and concentrate on the next shot and then I smoked my drive down 17. I think the adrenaline was flowing pretty well there.”

Merkulov was able to convert his long drive on 17 with a birdie to match those by Edmister and Bozzelli.

“I thought on 17 if I could make birdie then I would put a little bit of pressure on the other two to make birdie and stay ahead of me, but they made fours, too,” Edmister said.

Merkulov said the feeling of becoming the state junior champion was overwhelming and hadn’t quite sunk in yet.

“It feels great. I won the Boys’ championship and since then I have had a goal of getting to the next level and winning the Junior division also,” Merkulov said. “Dom and I have had some great battles back and forth the past two years, and it just feels great that I’m the guy who won this time.”

Merkulov will play in some AJGA events later this year and compete in a tournament in honor of his swing coach which he said he “can’t wait to play in.” Then he said it will be time to focus on school.

Bozzelli may rue the fact that his one-stroke loss included a rules infraction on the 8th hole today. Bozzelli drove his tee shot into a lateral water hazard and elected to take a drop.

He then marked the two club-lengths he was entitled to drop the ball in, under the watchful eye of a rules official. However, on dropping the ball and seeing it roll outside of the two club-length margin, Bozzelli incorrectly assumed the ball was to be re-dropped and picked the ball up.

Unfortunately, the rules state that a ball that lands within the original two club-lengths and rolls outside, no more than one additional club-length, is in play. By picking up the ball Bozzelli incurred a one-stroke penalty.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Bozzelli said. “I guess I should have known the rule on that but I wasn’t aware the ball could roll outside of the two club-lengths and be in play. I only hit 72 shots today.”

“I had a couple of chances on the back nine, 16 for instance, and I wasn’t able to take them, and then on 18 I wasn’t able to hit the shot I needed to with my second. Yaroslav deserved it today though and there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Bozzelli said he intends to play in a number of AJGA events in the fall and plans to keep “working hard on my game and get ready for those.”

Edmister wasn’t able to get off to the best of starts but battled back and hung in until the very end.

“I had a bit of a rough start today, with a bogey and double bogey in my first few holes,” Edmister said. “I changed my game plan after that and decided to hit driver on almost every hole to be a little more aggressive.”

“I was real happy with how I played this week and I gained a lot of experience playing in the final group and hanging in there until the end. I exceeded my expectations for the week and I’m very happy with how I played, so I’m not too disappointed really.”

Edmister plans to take some time off and take stock after his run this week, and says he is still unsure where he will be playing in high school in the fall after his dad took the head professional position at Mill Creek, near Rochester.

--Courtesy NYSGA

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