William Jennings followed up a win over the best juniors in South Carolina at The Blade with a victory over the best juniors in both Carolinas at the Carolina Golf Association’s Junior Championship.
Jennings, from Greenville, won a two hole playoff over Gene Zeigler from Florence for the Carolinas championship.
Jennings started the final round in a 3-way tie for third place, four shots behind second round leader Griffin Tarver from Tega Kay and three shots behind Zeigler.
On the first hole Zeigler birdied and Tarver bogeyed and the lead changed hands.
Jennings playing in the second to last group ran off three birdies on the front nine to move into second place.
The birdies on numbers 4 and 5 were short puts, but on the 6th hole Jennings drained a 20 footer. He got to 7-under par, but was still 3-shots off the lead.
“After making that putt on No.6, I felt confident and knew that I had a good chance to be in contention,” Jennings said. “I went 4-under on the back nine yesterday (second round), so I knew I could go low, I had to do that, and it happened,” he said.
Birdies on number 12 and 14 earned the Christ Church High School golfer a short lived tie for the lead. Zeigler, made his second eagle of the round to break the tie and take a two shot lead with four to play.
The future Gamecock golfer gave away another shot with a bogey on number 16 while Jennings finished with an 8-under par 202 total, leaving him 1-shot behind the leader.
There was nothing Jennings could do, but wait to see if Zeigler could wrap up the win with at least a par on the final hole. He didn’t.
“It was nerve wracking standing and watching Gene finish,” Jennings said. “I honestly thought I had lost, but he gave me an opening so I took it,” he said.
The bogey on his final hole forced the playoff with Jennings.
Both golfers birdied the first playoff hole, number 18 at the Florence Country Club.
Zeigler made his birdie on a short putt. Jennings dropped a pressure packed 10-footer on top of Zeigler forcing a second go-round on the same hole.
This time Jennings got a clear advantage. He was on the green in two putting for an eagle.
When Zeigler missed his birdie chip, Jennings showed maturity beyond his 14 years and didn’t take any chances. He lagged his 12 foot eagle putt to the hole and tapped in for a birdie and the win.
“I was worried that Gene was going to chip it in for birdie, but after the chip. I knew that I could two putt for birdie and win. When my putt finally went in, I just felt relieved. Last week I lost by one stroke, so this win feels even better,” he said.
At just 14 he may be the youngest winner of the 71 year old championship.
Between his win at The Blade and the Carolina Junior, Jennings was the runner-up at the AJGA tourney played at Chateau Elon.
Add in another second at The Future Masters, a fifth at the Harold Varner AJGA and the age group title at the SCGA Junior, Jennings hadn’t been out of the top-5 for a couple of months.
“When I started (final round) I thought I would have to get 10 under to win. I ended up a little short of that, but still did ok,” said the winner.
Zeigler, a future Gamecock golfer, opened the 54 hole championship with a 7-under par 63 for the low round of the tournament.
Max Green from Hilton Head slipped by Tarver for third place while Tyler DeChellis from Cayton, NC rounded out the top five.
The CGA contributed to this story
Scores available at https://www.carolinasgolf.org/