Western Junior: Black wins by four shots

CHICAGO, Ill. (June 24, 2011) -- At 5-9 and only 140 pounds, 15-year-old Connor Black proved size doesn’t matter in golf, as steady nerves and a solid short game carried him to victory Friday at the 94th Western Junior at The Beverly Country Club on Chicago’s South Side.

Though the Katy, Texas, native will be only a sophomore in high school in September, a bevy of college coaches watched closely as Black shot a 3-over par 74 Friday (June 24) to win by two strokes over Hunter Kraus of Germantown, Tenn., and by three over Nick McLaughlin of New Castle, N.H. All three players received invitations to play in the Western Amateur, Aug. 2-6, at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill.

Black, who came into the championship the 27th-ranked junior in the country, led by four strokes going into the final round. The cushion came in handy after he had a few shaky moments on the back nine.

“I came into the tournament today thinking it was my tournament to lose but I hung in there,” Black said before receiving Milt Woodard Trophy.

Black played the front nine in even par and went to 1-under after a birdie on the par 10th, at which point things got a little complicated.Connor Black 2011 Western Junior champion

Black made a double-bogey 7 on the par 5 11th after he put his second shot into a fairway bunker and three-putted. He saved par from a greenside bunker on the par 3 12th and birdied the 13th to get back to 1-under.

But his tee shot on the short 333-yard par 4, 14th landed in a divot – his first all week - and he chunked his second shot only about 30 yards. His pitch to the green rolled above the hole – a no-no on Beverly’s classic Donald Ross layout – and he two-putted downhill for bogey.

Meanwhile, playing partner Nicolo Galletti of Clayton, Calif., drained a 35-foot birdie putt on 14 to pull within three shots. Black then bogeyed two of the last four holes, but Galletti double-bogeyed No. 16 and was effectively out of the tournament.

Black finished at 1-over par 285 on rounds of 69-72-70-74.

Black, who is ranked the nation’s No. 1 player for the high school class of 2013, said the Western Junior was very special to him even though he had missed the cut last year at the age of 14.

"I told my dad at the beginning of the year that this was the tournament I was looking forward to most, along with the [U.S.] Junior,” Black said. “This tournament is so professionally run. The people at Beverly have been so nice. They have taken us in and put their arms around us and really made us feel comfortable."

Black also praised the golf course and the conditions.

"Beverly is such a great course,” he said. “I'm not sure if I've ever played fairways where you feel like you're walking on carpet."

Coaches from Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, and Duke were among those following Black’s final round. His father, Harvey Black, a lawyer who caddied for his son, said Connor is interested in studying architecture as well as playing golf in college.

“We’ve visited a number of schools, but it’s going to be up to him to decide,” the elder Black said.

The Blacks said they’re likely to return to the Chicago area so Connor can compete in the Western Amateur, Aug. 2-6, at North Shore Country Club in Glenview.

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ABOUT THE Western Junior

72-hole stroke play event open to male amateur golfers who are at least 16 years old and not older than 19 by the end of the tournament. Entrants must have an official and verified handicap index not exceeding three strokes. Field maximum of 156.

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