BELMONT, MI (July 15, 2005) -- Rickie Fowler started Friday’s final round of the 2005 Western Junior three strokes behind the co-leaders, but he had a different number on his mind.
“I picked a number I thought I had to shoot … it was 64,” said Fowler, 16, of Murrieta, Calif. Fowler did just that, with a 33-31—64, to leapfrog over five players who started the day in front of him and win the 88th Western Junior Championship, presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf, at Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, Mich.
“Today, I just came out and knew what I had to do and did it,” Fowler said. “A 64 anywhere is a good score. It just happened. I hit good shots and made birdies. I knew I had to make more birdies.”
A birdie on the par 4, 436-yard 18th hole sealed the win for Fowler. He hit an 8-iron to within 7 feet from 162 yards out and drained the putt to finish the 72-hole championship at 12-under-par 272.
David Yujin Chung, 15, Fayetteville, N.C., playing in the final threesome one group behind Fowler, had a chance to force a playoff, but his 30-foot birdie putt on No. 18 slid by the hole. Chung finished alone in second, shooting a 4-under-par 67 for a four-round total of 273.
“I thought I played a great round,” said Chung. “I got up and down a lot. I was grinding. I thought 3 or 4 under would do it. It just wasn’t enough, I guess.”
Tied for third at 274 were Nicholas Smith, 18, Ocala, Fla., and Peter Uihlein, 15, Bradenton, Fla. Uihlein, who started the day as co-leader, shot a 2-under-par 69. Smith, who will be a freshman at Florida State University, started one stroke back and shot a 68.
Smith held or shared the lead for most of the round before Fowler passed him and the field with a birdie on the 203-yard, par 3, 15th.
“I can’t really complain,” said Smith. “I played well all week. I had four consecutive rounds under par. I can’t say enough about Rickie today. He shot 7 under to win. That’s incredible.”
Uihlein echoed Smith’s praise for Fowler. “That was great playing by Rickie. He obviously played well,” he said. “I got it to 10 under and could have won, but there’s not much you can do when he shoots 7 under.”
Smith stood on the 15th tee in a tie with Chung and with a stroke lead over Fowler and Uihlein, but he bogeyed the hole to fall one stroke back. Fowler’s birdie on 15 was one of four birdies he carded on the final five holes.
“I started the back nine birdie-birdie, but had a three-putt (for bogey) on 12 that set me back,” said Fowler. “My goal after the three-putt was to birdie in.” He almost did.
“I’ve learned to never give up,” he said. “You never want to give up.”
Fowler also shot a final round 64 to win the Hudson Junior Invitational in Hudson, Ohio, on June 24. He finished second in the AJGA Mission Hills Desert Junior in Rancho Mirage, Calif. on June 30.
“Winning today is another accomplishment for me. A … step on the ladder up. I want to thank the Western Golf Association and the members of Blythefield Country Club for this week,” said Fowler, who wants to become a professional golfer after a collegiate career. “I haven’t looked at any schools yet, but I plan to go to college … and then turn pro,” he said.
Philip Francis, 16, Scottsdale, Ariz., shot a final round 70 to finish alone in fifth at 276.
For complete results, click on the tournament link above (amateurgolf.com membership required).