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Yujeong Son Captures Allstate Sugar Bowl Tommy Moore Memorial Golf Title

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

For 27 holes, Yujeong Son and Julia Johnson were neck and neck in what was shaping up to be a classic showdown between two of the nation's top junior golfers at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Design, English Turn Golf & Country Club.

Then, midway through the final round, with calm winds and sunny skies, Son, from Norman, Okla., went to work, firing six birdies on the back nine Tuesday to win the 2015 Allstate Sugar Bowl Tommy Moore Memorial Junior Golf Championship in the Girls' 13-18 Division by six shots. Son finished with a two-day total of 8-under-par 136.

Defending 2014 Champion, Johnson, from St. Gabriel, La., finished with a 2-under-par 142.

Lauren Metcalf of Yuma, Ariz., finished with a 1-over-par 145, closing with a strong 2-under-par 70 in the final round.

After shooting a respectable 1-under-par 71 in the opening round, Son's back nine surge wowed the gallery. She began final round play at the 10th hole, and was 1-under for her round at the turn. But her back nine surge included a string of four consecutive birdies to break the tournament open.

Son and Johnson began final round play at the 10th hole. Johnson took the lead briefly with two birdies in the first three holes.

"She was making good shots. I was making good shots. But on the back, I birdied the second hole and that boosted my confidence," Son said.

After a par at the third, Son would birdie five of the last six holes for a 65, tying the 14-year-old's career one-round score. She closed out her title run by draining a 20-foot putt on the home hole in front of a large gallery.

Improved weather on the final day, with sunny skies and calm winds played a key role.

"(Tuesday) conditions were perfect," Son said. "The wind wasn't blowing that much and it was sunny. The first day it was windy, and that kind of got to me. But the second day, it was perfect."

Son, who wants to finish her high school career with all A's and a state title at Norman High, hopes the Allstate Sugar Bowl win will help make her more consistent heading into her prep season.

"It gives me confidence to know I can shoot this low and not let the pressure get to me so much. It was fun."

In the Boys'16-18 Division, Logan Leary of Gonzales, La., captured the title with two-day total of 139, 5-under-par to win by four strokes over, Price Butcher of New Orleans, who shot a 1-under-par 143.

Solid iron play was pivotal for Leary.

"To win this tournament was very special for me," Leary said. "I didn't really hit my driver very well in the first round. But my irons pretty much carried me through the entire first day."

In the final round, Leary and Butcher battled back and forth. As in the opening round, iron play was again pivotal for Leary.

"Price was putting the pressure on me," Leary said. "There was a stretch from nine to 12 where I had four birdies in a row and that really propelled me and helped my confidence to be able to keep a three-shot, four-shot lead through the rest of the tournament."

This is not the first time Leary and Butcher competed for a title. The two squared off early in this year's Louisiana Junior Amateur Championship. In the final round, Butcher shot a 68 to beat Leary, who fired a 69.

"I didn't want to have to go through second place again, so I really made an extra effort to get level with him. We have a lot of fun whenever we play together," Leary said. "I needed that win, especially against him."

The history of golf is peppered with rivalries in which one player brings out the best in the other, like Nicklaus and Watson, Mickelson and Woods, Jones and Hagen. In Louisiana junior golf circles, Butcher and Leary make up one of those friendly, but fierce rivalries.

"That's exactly what happens. Every time he's leading or we're both near the top, we always seem to play better if we know we're against each other."

In the Boys 13-15 Division, Damin Strydom of Kingwood, Texas fired an impressive final round 68 to run away with the title by nine shots over Wilson Baker of Oxford Miss., and Mikey Landry of Laplace, La.

Strydom finished with a two-day total of 141, three-under par. Baker and Landry finished at 150. For Strydom, who struggled to break 80 in last year's tournament, a year made a world of difference. He was particularly aggressive on English Turn's par fives.

"To be able to break par so easily feels a lot better, Strydom said. "With it not being so windy (Tuesday) I was able to be more aggressive going at the hole. I was able to go at the flag and hit it really close."

Also, after struggling on the greens in the opening round, Strydom had only 24 putts in the final round en route to his 68.

"Even though I missed a lot of greens I was able to get it up and down and make the pars, That's the main difference," he said.

He called his victory, "a great win."

"I've been trying to win this tournament for the last three or four years," he said. "Just to win this tournament gives me so much confidence as I move to a higher age division next year. Now that I've won a tournament this size, it gives me a lot more confidence moving into tournaments like the AJGA."

The Kelly Gibson Foundation, in partnership with the Allstate Sugar Bowl, has hosted the Allstate Sugar Bowl Tommy Moore Memorial Junior Golf Championships to honor the late Tommy Moore, one of the finest junior golfers to emerge from the New Orleans area. Ranked as the number one junior golfer in the United States by Golf Digest in 1980, Moore played collegiate golf at Oklahoma State, and went on to earn his PGA Tour card. Moore won the Nike Tour's Boise Open in 1993.

Sadly, Moore's life was cut short by a rare blood disease. He died in 1998 at 35. However, his legacy of excellence continues. The Allstate Sugar Bowl Tommy Moore Memorial Junior Golf Championship has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to young people who excel on and off the course.

Since its beginnings in 2011, the Allstate Sugar Bowl Tommy Moore Memorial Junior Golf Championship has grown into one of the nation's top junior tournaments.

Players from 11 states competed in this year's event. For complete tournament results, go to kellygibson.bluegolf.com.

[Story courtesy of the Kelly Gibson Foundation]

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