Kelby Burton tipped his hat down over his eyes Thursday, as if to try to shield them from what they'd just seen.
The rising Lakeside senior had survived a tumultuous final round at West Lake Country Club to give himself a chance to win the Charles Howell Junior Championship.
His 5-foot birdie putt on 18 horse-shoed around the lip of the cup and stayed out. Auburn, Ga., native Drew Czuchry finished 3-under-par to win the American Junior Golf Association event by a shot.
"It was pretty intense," Burton said. "Up and down."
Burton fired a second-round 69, and at 1-under was three shots back entering the final round.
His last 18 holes included a stretch where he went triple bogey, bogey, eagle. That he even had a chance to force a playoff seemed improbable halfway through the final hole.
After being told he needed a birdie to tie, tried to reach the par 5 in two. His second shot struck a tree and stayed in the rough.
But a laser three iron from there rolled within 5 feet.
Burton qualified for the Charles Howell after finishing fourth earlier this year in his first AJGA event. He expects to play more of the tour's events before the summer is through, and said he also plans to play a U.S. Amateur qualifier.
Martinez resident Emmanuel Kountakis was two shots back of his future Lakeside High School teammate heading into the final round. He shot even par on the final day to finish 1.
Both were chasing Jerry Ruiz, an 18-year-old from Mexico. Ruiz led by a stroke after two rounds of 70.
Ruiz, who graduated high school in his home country in June, is playing the AJGA circuit in hopes of landing an offer to play in college.
Arizona native Anna Kim ran away with the girls title, despite a final-round 76. Kim was playing her first AJGA event after failing to qualify at four other tournaments this year.
Kim finished 3-under-par, five shots in front of Taylor Ramsey.
Ramsey was the clubhouse leader after her first round, but Kim, playing in one of the later groups, came in with a 68 and led the rest of the way.
Among the other Columbia County golfers in contention after the first day were Cody Shafer and Kountakis. Each shot an even-par 72.
Like sisters Taylor and Ashlan Ramsey, Kountakis also enjoyed a home course advantage, though he said it was all but negated with the strength of the field.
One area that lent itself to local knowledge was the unique grain of the greens, which makes reading putts tricky.
"These greens have more grain than what they might normally play," said Kountakis, 14, who will be a freshman at Lakeside High in the fall.
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