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Holywood star Tom McKibbin reveals mature game-plan that sealed latest prestigious triumph in America

 

Rising star: Tom McKibbin holds up the trophy at Sage Valley
Rising star: Tom McKibbin holds up the trophy at Sage Valley

By Paul Kelly

Holywood GC star Tom McKibbin produced a composed final round performance to win the 9th Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club in South Carolina on Saturday.

The 16-year-old Irish international closed the three-round tournament with a one-under-par 71 to hold off American Maxwell Moldovan by a shot.

This was a victory that highlighted Tom's growing on-course maturity and comes less than a fortnight after he chipped in to win the prestigious Peter McEvoy Trophy at Copt Heath.

"I just tried to be patient because the greens here get rock hard," said Tom.

"They have that sub-air system which they switch on overnight and the greens get nearly impossible to play on. A good shot can finish 50-60 feet away, that's how firm that can get.

"Knowing what the golf course was like, I didn't want to push because you can make a double or triple very easily. The key was simply to play and give myself a chance because pars are pretty good around that course."

The Junior Invitational, at Sage Valley in Augusta, Georgia is a three-day event featuring the top junior boys in the world. Heading into the final round, the 36-hole leader, Nicholas Dunlap, was at seven-under while Tom and Moldovan started the morning at five-under and four-under, respectively.

Both players went toe-to-toe on the front nine shooting even par, and the back nine developed into a match-play scenario as Dunlap and others fell away.

Following a bogey on the 12th, Tom birdied the 13th to tie Moldovan at six-under-par and a further birdie at the par-five 15th gave him a lead he would not relinquish.

Both players dropped shots on the 17th but a par on the 18th was good enough to give Tom the biggest win of his career.

The teenager returns home today and will then fly out to England next week to compete in the Lytham Trophy, a tournament won by former Walker Cup representative Paul Cutler in 2010.

"Everything is really good with my game at the minute and it's giving me plenty of confidence," added Tom.

"It will be my first time playing Lytham and St Annes but I don't think the switch back to links golf will be too bad. The greens can't be any firmer than those at Sage Valley. I'd love to keep playing but after that, I have a bit of a break for exams."

Meanwhile, Spain's Jorge Campillo birdied two of his last three holes to clinch his first victory on the European Tour with a two-shot triumph in the Hassan II Golf Trophy at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat yesterday.

Campillo, who had recorded a total of six second-place finishes before claiming a victory in his 229th appearance on the tour, finished with a 71 for a total of nine-under par.

"It's great, it's been a long while. I was on top of my game, so I'm proud of that," he said.

"It was tough, I had to have my 'A' game. I was missing shots off the tee, but I managed to recover. I'm proud of the way I finished - I finished like a champion, I guess.

"It has taken me a while (to win a trophy), but it is all worth it now."

The 32-year-old began his final round a shot behind but after bogeys on the second and third, looked to have blown his chances.

But after getting back those two shots, birdies on the 16th and 17th saw him push to the front and despite a nervous tee shot on the 18th that missed the fairway, he recovered for a par.

South African Erik van Rooyen was the overnight leader going into the final round but could only manage a 74 to finish tied second with Americans Julian Suri (71) and Sean Crocker (72).

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