Katie Whitfield and Zack Gordon both started the CGA South Carolina Junior Match Play championship with strong performances in stroke play qualifying.
The two golfers were able to keep the momentum going all week and ended the tournament at Cherokee National Golf Club with championships.
Whitfield shot a second round 2-under par 70 in the qualifying tournament to win medalist honors.
“Shooting a 70 gave me a good boost of confidence for the rest of the tournament,” said the golfer who lives in Clemson.
Whitfield didn’t need her putter to start the championship match with Jalen Castle of West Columbia.
The future Bowling Green University golfer hit the ball so close she picked up a couple of conceded birdies to jump out to a big lead.
“I birdied four of the first five holes. I hit a lot of shots close and didn’t have any long putts,” said Whitfield.
Castle got to the finals by beating her sister in an opening round match and then grinding out several wins in close matches.
She was able to stay close to Whitfield and when she made some mistakes Castle was able to close the gap.
“On 15 I hit it in the woods and it got down to a 2 hole lead for me. Finally on 16 I got it back and was able to win the match,” she said.
Whitfield earned her first major Carolinas championship with a 3&2 victory over Castle. She had won some smaller events and been close to the top in a few majors, but this was her biggest career victory.
“This is the first big win I’ve had and it definitely is the best win I’ve had,” said Whitfield.
Zack Gordon had the same sentiments as he accepted the trophy as the boys champion. The Gaffney golfer, like Whitfield, had recorded wins and good performances, but this was his first major CGA championship.
“This certainly is the biggest win I’ve had and it gives me a lot of confidence,” said the Gaffney High School rising senior.
Gordon finished the qualifying tournament in a tie for third place with Reed Bentley, his finals opponent from Welford.
The two golfers played the first nine holes just about even with Gordon taking a 1up lead to the back nine.
On the back nine some home course knowledge may have helped Gordon card three birdies and build his lead to four holes with four to play.
With the match dormie Bentley was able to win the 15th hole, but both golfers parred the 16th hole to give Gordon the victory.
“I hit close on a lot of holes and had a good look and a couple of my putts went in. It came down to whoever could make the putts and I made a couple more than he did,” said the first time champion.
The tournament ended Bentley’s fine junior career. The Byrnes High School grad will play at the College of Charleston this fall.
He recorded a semi-final, quarter-final and final appearance in the event over the last three years, but missed out on a win.
“My putter cooled off and you have to make birdies to win,” said Bentley. “I thought I might be able to catch up to him, but he made the putts,” said the runner-up.
Gordon, who has committed to play college golf at Clemson appreciated the home course support he received from his family and members at Cherokee National.
“I like it when they come out to watch, it puts a little extra pressure on me and I don’t mind that,” he said.
After Gordon had a few minutes to think about his win he decided the best part of the victory was something most of us would take for granted.
“The best part of the win was taking a deep breath at the end,'” said the winner of the 40th CGA South Carolina Match Play championship.