After Tuesday’s first round of the International Junior Masters, leader Camilo Aguado talked of the moment he transformed from avid soccer player to avid golfer. Who could have known the tale would provide delicious foreshadowing for what transpired on Wednesday?
Aguado, a Colombian who resides in Mexico City, fell for golf after watching a gimpy Tiger Woods win the 2008 U.S. Open in a playoff. The perseverance Woods showed in fighting off the pain to beat Rocco Mediate sucked Aguado into the sport. He wanted to play with the same steely resolve displayed by his golfing idol.
Early Wednesday morning, Aguado encountered adversity in a different form, but one no less mentally demanding. He bogeyed the first hole. He bogeyed the second hole. And upon completion of the third, he found a second 8-iron in his bag. It didn’t matter that a competitor had placed it there accidentally while they all practiced on the range. Aguado was carrying 15 clubs, one over the limit, which warrants a two-stroke penalty per hole played up to a maximum of four strokes.
Suddenly, three holes into the second round of medal play, Aguado was already 6 over for the round. His hopes of calling home and telling his parents he had medaled were in serious jeopardy.
“I just said to myself to be patient,” Aguado said. “I really made some good things happen.”
The 18-year-old birdie machine seized opportunities when they arose. Buoyed by an eagle on No. 16, he played 3 under the rest of the way, shot 3-over 74 and finished as co-medalist with Brodie McKinney of Stoney Creek, Ont., who followed an opening 74 with a 67.
Of the two, only Aguado still stands in the championship flight. He produced five birdies in the opening round of match play to dispatch Canisius College-bound David Berkun of Getzville, 4 and 2. Meanwhile, McKinney, assigned the No. 1 seed after a match of cards, was upended, 2 up, by No. 32 Trevor Ranton of Waterloo, Ont.
St. Francis grad Cory Cullen, another Canisius-bound golfer, is the lone local still alive in the championship flight. He scored a 4 and 2 victory over Carlos Jesus Ardila of Colombia. It looked like Jamestown’s Wilson Lockwood would also advance until Ben Hayes of Fairlee, Vt., unleashed five birdies in a span of seven holes to come from four back for a 2 and 1 victory.
There’s just no telling what’s going to happen in match play. Berkun, for one, could serve as spokesperson for the vagaries of the format. The Williamsville North graduate shot his second 77 for a 154 that put him in a five-way tie for one of the final three spots in the championship flight. By the second playoff hole, he was one of three competitors playing for two spots — and in by far the worst shape off the tee. But Berkun came out of the sand to make a 20-footer for par that earned him a matchup with Aguado.
“It wasn’t the best matchup but that’s my fault,” Berkun said. “I’m the one who shot 77-77.”
His match with Aguado turned into a dazzler. After nine holes, Berkun was 1-under on the scorecard (irrelevant) and 2 down in the match. He drew even after 11 holes but golf is a defenseless sport. Aguado dropped a 30-foot birdie putt on their 14th hole and another on their 15th (they started on No. 10).
“I played well,” Berkun said. “I gave him a test.”
The championship flight of 32 consisted of players from five countries and six states. So what were the odds that Will Thomson and Gunner Doyle would find themselves toe-to-toe? The two both hail from Penfield and are close golfing friends. Doyle, 15, ended up scoring a 4 & 2 victory over Thomson, at 12 the youngest competitor in tournament history.
Montreal’s Joey Savoie fell short of becoming the first back-to-back champion since Briny Baird in 1988-89. Savoie qualified 28th and was defeated 5 & 4 by Niall McMullen of Scotland.