Seiji Sako and Ian Larsen (Golf Association of Philadelphia Photo)
Ian Larsen and Seiji Sako had Rolling Green Golf Club on its heels.
After starting 6 under as a team through 12 holes, the golf course bit back hard in the tune of a trio of team bogeys on Nos. 13 (par 4, 395 yards), 14 (par 3, 190 yards) and 15 (par 4, 359 yards). With their chances dwindling, Sako uttered to Larsen, “We need to finish with three birdies.”
Sako’s motivational speech paid dividends.
Larsen feathered a gap wedge to eight feet on No. 16 (par 3, 129 yards) to get the rally started. After Sako smothered a high-hook bomb off the tee on No. 17 (par 5, 460 yards), he hit a gap wedge from 131 yards to nine feet and two-putted for an easy birdie.
To round out the worldly finish, Sako laced a 6-iron from 190 yards to 30 feet on the last (par 5, 521 yards) and two-putted for a closing birdie.
“Those are the shots that keep you coming back,” Sako, a rising sophomore at Lower Merion High School, said.
Larsen and Sako’s perseverance and patience was rewarded with the 37th Francis X. Hussey Memorial title Wednesday at Rolling Green (par 71, 6,275 yards).
They defeated Nathan Guertler of Merion Golf Club and Matthew Normand of Laurel Creek Country Club with par on the second playoff hole.
Both teams finished regulation at 6 under.
The Francis X. Hussey Memorial is a better-ball of partners event.
“It means a lot to win any tournament,” Larsen, 14, of Glenmoore, Pa., said. “I didn’t expect this at all considering we are only 14 and 15 years old. This field had kids who graduated high school and are going to play college golf. It proves we can hang with these older kids.”
“Winning is why you play the game,” Sako, 15, of Wynnewood, Pa., said. “There’s like 100 people playing in each of these and only one player or team can win. It’s a grind out here so it is important to keep focusing on hitting good shots and the results will come.”
They waited three hours before they hit their tee shots on the first playoff hole. They took two different tactics to kill time.
“I had a lunch ticket left so I made sure to use that,” Larsen, of Honeybrook Golf Club, said. “Other than that I wanted to relax, hit a few balls and putt. It was hot out so I wanted to save some energy.”
“I downed a few Coca-Colas and I was ready to go,” Sako, of McCall Golf Club, joked.
Larsen, who won the Junior-Junior Division of this event in 2021, kept hope alive on the first playoff hole (No. 1, par 4, 389 yards), with a savvy sand save that included a 10-footer for par. On the second playoff hole (No. 2, par 4, 404 yards), Sako saved par from over the green and once Normand missed a 3-footer to extend, they were holding the hardware.
“We make a good team because I am erratic and can birdie every hole and Seiji makes a ton of solid pars,” Larsen, a rising freshman at Downingtown West High School, said. “Seiji makes a lot of birdies too. We just find ways to get it done as a team.”
There won’t be much time for celebration for the duo. Both are competing in the Delaware Junior Championship Thursday and Friday at Maple Dale Country Club.
Both of the self-acclaimed golf junkies won’t have any issue with another early wake-up call.
The common expression “golf is a tale of two nines” is an appropriate utterance when a player seemingly scores well on one nine and not the other. Sometimes, the same sort of duality can occur in a single nine, just ask brothers Jackson and Gavin Lane of Riverton Country Club. On Wednesday, their efforts allowed them to capture the Francis X. Hussey Memorial’s Junior-Junior Division (par 36, 2,939 yards) prize with a team score of even-par 36 across the front nine.
“We didn’t get off to the greatest start. I think [with the way Gavin] played the first four holes, we could have just taken his scores,” Jackson, of Cinnaminson, N.J., said. “On the last five [holes], he didn’t play his best and I started playing well.”
The pair carded bogeys on Nos. 2 (par 4, 380 yards) and 4 (par 4, 315 yards) to stand together at two-over par.
It was time for Jackson to change the pace.
On No. 5 (par 4, 318 yards), Jackson lifted a 52-degree wedge from 100 yards to 10 feet. He dropped the birdie putt to get the team back on track. On No. 7 (par 5, 449 yards), Jackson got the brotherly duo back to even-par when he two-putted for birdie after his 5-iron from 180 yards settled 20 feet from the hole. Thanks to Jackson, the Lanes played their second half of holes 2-under-par.
“It means a lot [to win] because I will be going into the [Junior] Division next year,” Jackson said. “I looked at the tees and they weren’t that much farther [than the ones we were playing]. I think we will have a chance [to win] next year since [Gavin] can play up.”
Both boys attend Cinnaminson Middle School. Jackson (13) is headed into eighth grade and Gavin (11) will be in seventh.
Most times, golf is a tale of two nines. Sometimes, it’s a poem of one.
NOTE: Ryan Quinn of Commonwealth National Golf Club made an ace on No. 6 (par 3, 170 yards). He used a 6-iron to make his first career hole-in-one.
Francis X. Hussey, the tournament’s namesake, was a Junior member at Rolling Green. He suffered from congenital heart disease and died in December 1983 while undergoing major heart surgery. He was 13 years old when he died. Francis was a student in the Haverford Township school system, an avid sports fan and an active Junior member at Rolling Green. His courage in the face of his illness was a great inspiration to all who knew him.
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