MOUNT VERNON — Play at the 2009 Hiawatha Juniors golf tournament, celebrating its 15th year, was a little soggy on Thursday, but participants had a good time nonetheless. At the end of the day, T.T. Crouch parlayed home course advantage into a two-stroke victory.
Crouch fired a 76 despite the weather conditions at Hiawatha Golf Course in Mount Vernon to win the 16- to 18-year-old age division and card the lowest score of the day. Will O’Hara took the 13- to 15-year-old Division with a score of 78, and Brayden Baldridge of Danville won the 10- to 12-year-old Division, firing a 95.
“The competition was very good,” said tournament coordinator Kent Miller. “Our numbers were down a little bit; we were down maybe 10 or 15 golfers from what we had in the past. I think the economy is part of that and there are so many junior tournaments now. People have to be picky and choosy as to what they play. We were pleased with the turnout to a certain extent. We got quite a few Mount Vernon kids, and this tournament is for those kids and the rest of the players in Knox County.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s been (15 years). When we started this, there really weren’t any other junior tournaments around here. We felt there was a need, and through the help of the Crouch family, Jeff Butcher and now, John and Cindy Wyatt, we get this done. There is a little bit of work involved on my end, but I enjoy it.”
Crouch shot a 40 on the front nine, and trailed Brody Harwell, who shot a 38, at the turn. Crouch’s 36 on the back nine, however, allowed him to pull away from Harwell for a two-shot victory. Alex Ashbrook finished third with an 80 (41-39), and Ben Phillipi was fourth, shooting an 84 (44-40).
“This is my family’s course so I want to protect my ground. I’ve never lost a tournament here,” said Crouch. “I didn’t play very well; definitely not my best. Being on my home course I expected to play better, but I bounced back on the back nine and shot a decent number. ... The course dried out a lot toward the end. The front nine was very wet. The greens were wet, which made it tough to judge the speed of the greens.”
Crouch can add his tournament-winning plaque to the other arsenal of tournaments he already won this year. He has been busy traversing the country, so to have the opportunity to play at home was a welcomed one.
“This just helps me relax,” Crouch said. “I get to play on my home course and I can just have fun. ... I’ve traveled a lot this spring. I went down to Myrtle Beach and won down there for my first win of the year. Then I came back to Ohio for a couple of weeks and then went to Chicago, where I played and won. I got off to a good start. I’m hoping I can just keep it going.”
In the 13- to 15-year old Division, it was an O’Hara family affair as three out of the top four spots went to the O’Haras. In addition to Will’s performance, Matt took second, firing an 86, and Adam finished fourth (87). Matt Miley shot his way into the mix, taking third with an 86 as well.
“I feel like I played all right,” said Will O’Hara. “I missed a few putts I should have made, but overall I played pretty good. ... It is nice to come out and do what I do. I don’t worry about the competition.
“The weather was rough for a while. When it started to calm down, it got better.”
Baldridge notched a two-stroke victory in the 10- to 12-year old Division, edging Robert Williams. Williams fired a 97. Third place went to Bailey Tear (110) and Mitchell Bastin finished fourth (132).
“I usually play a little better, but I am happy with the way I played,” said Baldridge. “It was pretty hard to play with it raining. I don’t get to play in the rain much, which made it tough. ... This is my fifth time playing this course this year. I play it quite a bit.”
The rain wreaked havoc for the golfers throughout the day, but right from the start, they knew it would be rough.
“We had an hour and 15-minute rain delay, and then we teed off in the rain,” said Miller. “We played out first four or five holes in the rain, which is good experience for some of those kids. I think that jacked the scores up quite a bit because the ball is harder to control. The greens were wet and slow. Then it cleared up, but like typical Mount Vernon weather, it came back and hit us again for a few holes. Our scores were up a little bit, but the competition was close.”
“It was tough,” said O’Hara of the rain delay. “I was anxious to get out there and go.”