Tatom, Dow win AJGA Kansas Junior championships





Tate Tatom of Gallatin Gateway, Mont., gets to play a shortened high school golf season in his northwest area more noted for skiing than its golf courses.

Courtney Dow has the pleasure of playing year-round golf around her Texas home of Frisco, Texas.

On Thursday, the two players took different routesbut with the same end resultsto capture the boys and girls championships of the AJGA Kansas Junior at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.

Tatom, holding portions of the lead in each of the three rounds of the 54-hole event, overcame a shaky front nine of 4-over-par 40, and rebounded with a 2-under 34 on the incoming nine to shoot 74 for a three-day total of 221, to finish two shots clear of Austin Murphy of Morgan Hill, Calif., and Griffin Barela of Lakewood, Colo., with those two shooting final rounds of 74 and 75 to tie at 223.

It was a tough final round for Garden City's Taylor Larsen, who had shared the 36-hole lead with Tatom, as the local golfer struggled to a 7-over-par 79 to finish tied for seventh at 226.

Dow, meanwhile, rallied from three shots back with a final round even-par 72 to tie second-round leader Maddy Rayner of Southlake, Texas, with the two going into a sudden death playoff.

Dow took advantage of a four-putt bogey by Rayner to capture the title by making par on the playoff's par-5 first hole.

The two had finished the tournament with totals of 220, 4-over-par.

For Dow, it was her first victory of the year in an AJGA event, while Tatom was claiming a win in just his second ever AJGA event.

"It's very exciting to drive 16 hours and then win a tournament," Tatom said. "It' just that much better. I come from a small town in Montana, and I get a lot of support from people there."

Tatom said his home course just opened the week prior to his coming to Kansas for the AJGA event, but that he had been playing spring high school golf for the past six weeks.

"Our schedule is kinda crammed into a short span, and usually several of those tournaments get cancelled by bad weather," Tatom said. "I've won three state championships, but this certainly ranks pretty high knowing that I can play with some of the top kids around the country."

And while his final 74 wasn't exactly what he was looking for, he was pleased that he could keep his round together after the shaky start.

"I almost wanted to quit at the turn," Tatom said, smiling. "It wasn't like I was playing bad golf, I just got unlucky a couple of times. I'm proud that I could keep it going."

For Dow, the win had a little luster taken off with the playoff hole, and neither player taking advantage of lengthy tee shots that provided them an opportunity to reach the green in two.

Rayner drilled her second shot onto the front of the green, leaving her a 40-foot slightly uphill eagle putt, while Dow's second shot finished 10 yards short of the green and in the first cut of rough.

Dow then chipped past the hole, off the green and just on the edge of the fringe. Rayner's first putt came up six feet short. Dow missed her birdie putt, but tapped in for par. Rayner then hit her next putt about four feet past the hole and then had her potential tying par putt lip out, giving Dow the win.

"It always feels good when you win," said Dow, who also earned an exemption into this September's LPGA Symetra Tour event to be played at Buffalo Dunes. "I knew that if I played every three holes in even par or a little better, I might have a chance. The putting kept me in it all week, and usually that's the part of the game I struggle with. I've improved quite a bit since last year."

Rayner, meanwhile, said she took a lot of positives out of the runner-up finish, her best in an AJGA event.

"I played OK today, and struggled a little, but I'm not unpleased with how I did this week," Rayner said. "The playoff I just tried to relax with some breathing, but my nerves were really quakin' out there."

Garden's Larsen also took some consolation despite his final round, which included a quadruple 8 on the par-4 third hole. He salvaged his round with an even-par 36 on the back nine after struggling to a 43 on the front, that also included a double-bogey six on the ninth hole.

"With the way I finished and still managed a tie for seventh, I'm glad that I could see I can play with some of the best players," Larsen said. "But the way I played on the front nine, that's really a bummer. I've still got things to work on, but there are positives I take away."

Larsen, who said his troubles on the third hole began when he nearly topped his tee shot when he hit 3-wood off the tee trying to keep the ball low into the wind.

"I just really hit the top half of the ball, and then the hole just got away from me after that," Larsen said. "I felt like at the time it was the right decision. I just made a couple of really bad swings."

Garden City's other entrant, Daniel Gaspar, rallied in a big way with a final-round even-par 72, his best score ever at the Dunes, and combined with his opening 83-84, finished in a tie for 51st at 239.

Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.

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