AUSTIN, TEXAS (Friday, June 19) – The champion’s trophy for the first Western Junior played in Texas will stay in Texas.
Zack Fischer defended the state’s golf honor Friday, winning the 2009 Western Junior Championship, presented by Callaway, at The University of Texas Golf Club in Austin.
Fischer, 19, of Wake Village, Texas, eased to a two-stroke victory over runner-up Patrick Cantlay, 17, of Los Alamitos, Calif., with a 3-under-par 281 total in the 72-hole championship.
Fischer led Cantlay by two at the start of Friday’s final round. He stretched his lead to six through 14 then wobbled a bit on the final four holes before coming in with the win.
“I really didn’t feel nervous at the end. I just wasn’t hitting it good with my driver or 3-wood,” said Fischer, the 2009 Southland Conference co-champion from the University of Texas at Arlington. “My putting definitely saved me. I give all the credit to our coach, Jay Rees. He’s a great short game teacher. He’s helped me so much. Without him, I wouldn’t have won today.”
Fischer counts the Western Junior and Southland Conference co-title as his two top accomplishments in golf, and after Friday’s win he said the Western Junior ranks highest.
“This one is the biggest. It’s definitely the No. 1 win of my life,” he said. “It’s a great honor to win a championship that’s been won by so many great golfers … Jim Furyk , Bobby Clampett, Willie Wood … Jamie Lovemark … an NCAA champion. This is a huge tournament.”
Playing collegiate golf helped steel Fischer for this week’s competition, he said.
“Definitely, just having all those college tournaments under my belt was a plus,” Fischer noted. “I’ve grown a lot as a golfer the last two years.”
Fischer also credited his father and caddie, Ron Fischer, with keeping him on track the past four days.
“Without my dad, I probably wouldn’t even be in golf,” he said. “He got me started, and he supports me. He’s fantastic.”
For Cantlay, Friday’s second-place finish provides a launching point for his summer junior schedule.
“I just finished school last week, and this was my first junior tournament of the season,” said Cantlay, a senior at Servite High School in Anaheim. “This means I’m on track. It’s definitely something I can build on. It also means I need to work harder and get ready for my next event.”
Just two strokes back at the start of the day, Cantlay lost ground through the first 14 holes.
“I never got anything going. I never really hit the ball solid, and I missed some key putts,” he said. “You have to bring your ‘A’ game to win, and I didn’t.”
WGA Chairman John N. Fix praised both players for breaking par in the 72-hole tournament on a course as challenging as The University of Texas Golf Club. He also thanked the staff and volunteers at The University of Texas Golf Club for their hospitality.
“Everyone here was treated first-class, and the volunteers were outstanding,” Fix said. “We appreciate all of the support we received in our Western Junior Championship’s first visit to the state of Texas.”
For Fischer, the week will be one to remember.
“It was a great tournament,” said Fischer, who will carry the champion’s crystal trophy home with him on the drive back to Wake Village in northeast Texas. “I don’t think it could have been better.”
Finishing alone in third place at even par 284 was Austin Cody, 17, of North Charleston, S.C., who closed with a 2-under-par 69 Friday.
First-round co-leader Yaroslav Merkulov, 17, of Penfield, N.Y., and C.J. Kim, 18, of Chandler, Ariz., finished tied for fourth at 2-over-par 286.