HAGERSTOWN — Try as he might, Ryan Crabtree — who was recently crowned the player of the year in the WACO Juniors circuit — had not won a Tri-State Junior Golf Association event this summer.
Playing in the Tournament åof Champions at Beaver Creek Country Club, Crabtree finally picked up his long-awaited victory with a 1-over-par 73 in the 16-18 age division to claim the top spot, finishing a healthy four strokes better than Kyle Huntzberry and Ryan Mumaw.
“My putter saved me from wherever I was,” said Crabtree. “I knew against players like Mumaw, Huntzberry and (Aaron) Staley, I had to come out and play a solid round of golf.”
Also on Monday, Niklas Steiner had the best round of the day and of his career, putting together a 35-36 card for a 1-under-par 71 to win the 14-15 division. Karsen Rush continued to dominate the 12-13 division, putting up a 76 to beat Noah Reeder by one shot.
Starting on No. 16 in the shotgun format, Crabtree was at even par with a birdie and a bogey through his first three holes.
After a bogey on the first hole — his fourth of the round — he executed on the two front-nine par 3s, picking up birdies on Nos. 3 and 8 with putts made from 15 and 20 feet to go 1 under. A smooth up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 ninth gave him a 2-under 34 on the front nine.
He ran into trouble with a stray tee shot on No. 10 that produced a double bogey to fall back to even. Another bogey on No. 13 put Crabtree in black numbers, but the Williamsport golfer held tough the next two holes.
Crabtree nailed the coffin shut on 14 with a recovery from his tee shot that went left of the green on the par 3. He recovered with a crisp wedge and then knocked in a 4-footer for par.
“After 10 (the double bogey), I just needed to play steady golf the rest of the way,” said Crabtree. “I knew pars would be good.”
Even though there were opportunities for others, Huntzberry and Mumaw couldn’t close the door and Staley, despite an eagle on the par-5 11th from the sand, couldn’t find his game, ending with a 78.
Steiner, who won the WACO Juniors tournament on Thursday, had a career-best round, thanks to finding some success with the blade. He did not putt well in the WACO Championship over the weekend, but Monday was a different story.
“Late in Sunday’s round I think I found it,” said Steiner. “My arms were too wide and the sole (of the putter) was a little off the ground. Except for holes 2 and 12 I was real happy with how I struck the ball today.”
Even though no records are available, Tri-State director Bill Hoffman said Steiner’s 1-under might be the first time a 14- or 15-year-old had shot under par.
“It was another good year, one I didn’t think could happen at the end of last year,” said Hoffman. “We had some business individuals and some companies come through as sponsors and we can’t thank them enough. Hopefully we can continue along strong into next year.”