The final round of the 59th LGA Junior Amateur Championship was exciting and full of drama. Nick Daniel of Covington fired an eight-under par 64 at Links on the Bayou to win by one stroke over Brady Bennett of Zachary. Daniel posted rounds of 72-73-64 to finish with a total of 7-under par 209. He started the day eight shots off the lead, and his epic final round included 9 birdies and one bogey. 64 was the lowest round of this year’s Championship, and it is the lowest final round score ever shot by a Louisiana Junior Amateur Champion since the LGA began to utilize online scoring in 2004.
Daniel started his round at 10:48 AM on the first tee and made a par on his opening hole, a par 5 playing 559 yards on Friday. Daniel jumpstarted his round on the par 4 2nd hole, making the first of three consecutive birdies. He made back-to-back pars on the par 4 5th hole and the par 3 6th. He added another birdie at the par 5 7th but then made his lone mistake at the par 3 8th and carded a bogey. He bounced back with a par on the par 4 9th hole, making the turn at three-under par 33.
Daniel said following his round, “I didn’t change my game plan. I tried to stay aggressive the whole time.” That mindset was very apparent on his last nine holes. Daniel made a birdie on the par 4 10th hole and a par at the par 4 11th. He then added four consecutive birdies on holes 12 through 15. He would make par on his last three holes, bringing his back nine total to 31. Daniel was four starting times ahead of the final group so when he posted the 64, he was not sure if seven-under par would be enough to win.
Brady Bennett of Zachary had a valiant effort, grinding out a one-over par 73 in his final round after shooting a 69 in the first round and a 68 in the second round. Bennett was even par for the final round and tied with Daniel at seven-under par for the Championship when he stepped on the 18th tee box. Hole #18 is a par 3 over water, and it was playing 177 yards on Friday. Bennett missed the green and had a tough up and down to save par and force a playoff. His chip shot rolled 6 feet past the hole, and he barely missed the par putt coming back. He tapped in for bogey, and finished runner-up. The experience of being in the final pairing in the final round should sever Bennett well in the future, and it will be no surprise if he contends for a LGA Amateur Championship in the near future.
Daniel comes from a great golfing family. His mother Kay has won 11 Louisiana Women’s Golf Association titles (two Junior Amateurs, one Amateur, and eight Mid-Amateurs), and she is exempt from qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur after advancing to the quarterfinals at Squire Creek last year. She was on hand at Links on the Bayou, making this victory even sweeter. His sister Abbey is the reigning LWGA Junior Amateur Champion among many other accolades. Daniel added that this Championship “means the world” to him. He will be 18 years old at the time of next year’s Championship and thus ineligible to compete, so winning the LGA Junior Amateur in his final attempt was exceptional.
Daniel’s win puts him in the impressive company of former LGA Junior Amateur Champions, including PGA Tour winners Hal Sutton, Willie Wood, David Toms, Brian Bateman, and current PGA Tour player Andrew Loupe. Daniel received the “Past Champions’ Award” in the form of a $400 gift certificate that may be utilized in the Golf Shop at Links on the Bayou. He will have his name engraved on a beautiful plaque that honors each of the past LGA Junior Amateur Champions dating back to 1958, and it will be displayed at his home club, Money Hill G & CC in Abita Springs, until the 2017 Championship. Daniel also received a brand new Titleist golf bag embroidered with the LGA logo and “2016 LGA Junior Amateur Champion” signifying his victory, and he earned full exempt status with the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA). Other AJGA Performance Based Entry stars were awarded as follows: Top 5 (12 Performance Stars), Top 10 (8 Stars), Top 15 (4 Stars).
Rounding out the top 5 are: 2. Bennett (73/210), T3. Zachary Barrios of Slidell (73/211), T3. Parker Johnson of Baton Rouge (67/211), T5. Nicholas Arcement of Mathews (70/212), T5. Nolan Lambert of Gretna (71/212).
There were a total of ten scores under par on Friday. Other under par scores not mentioned above were shot by: Eric Brown of Lake Charles (68/217), Reed Sikes of Keithville (70/220), Mikey Landry of LaPlace (71/213), Raymond Poche of Covington (71/213), Grayson Glorioso (71/222), and Cole Kendrick of Natchez (71/227).
The Overall Championship was divided into three flights (Championship, First, and Second) based off 36 hole total score for play on Friday. Reed Sikes won the First Flight after shooting the score mentioned above. Jake Kuebel of Metairie won the Second Flight. Kuebel and Stephen Robinson of Mandeville both finished at 234, but Kuebel won the scorecard playoff. The LGA’s tiebreaker policy for its Junior Amateur is that in the event of a tie for the Overall Championship and/or any Age-Group Championship(s) there shall be a sudden death playoff beginning on a hole determined by the Championship Committee and continuing in an order of holes as determined by the Committee. All other ties, which determine placing, prizes, or recognition, will be decided by USGA method (i.e., last 9 holes played, last 6 holes played, last 3 holes played, last hole played). Kuebel shot a 37 on his back nine and Robinson shot a 38, so Kuebel won the Second Flight First Place crystal prize.
Temperatures were in the mid-90s again on Friday. High humidity levels resulted in afternoon heat index values of 105 to 111 degrees. Wind was not as much a factor on Friday as it was in the first two rounds. The lack of wind made scoring conditions easier, but it also increased the demand of the players’ ability to stay hydrated and also focused because they had become accustomed to playing in the wind. This marked the third time that Links on the Bayou has hosted LGA Junior Amateur Championship in its short history. It was also the host venue for this event in 2012 and 2014. Links on the Bayou was rated the best municipal golf course in Louisiana in 2009 by Golf Digest, and it was in superb condition for this Championship. The greens were firm, fast, and rolling true, and the golf course was well manicured throughout. It certainly provided a fun, yet stern test for the top junior golfers in the state. The Links on the Bayou course played to a par of 72 at approximately 6,770 yards for the Overall Championship in Friday’s final round.
Click here for Final Results.
Next year’s LGA Junior Amateur Championship will be at Tchefuncta Country Club in Covington.