September 27, 2015
Sunday at The First Tee Open: Another JTNC Win, More Watson Magic
Junior Tour of Northern California member Jack Avrit didn’t even want to watch.
Even though he and pro partner Mark O’ Meara walked off the historic 18th at Pebble Beach Golf Links with a two-shot lead in the Pro-Junior portion of the First Tee Open after a 5-under 67, Avrit was worried that victory would be snatched from his hands.
Call it the Christopher Meyers effect.
“This thing isn’t over yet,” said a nervous Avrit, who was fully aware of Meyers’ miracle albatross on the 18th in the final round of last year’s Pro-Junior that stole a win from fellow JTNC member Joshua McCarthy.
Sure enough, things weren’t done. Just moments later, Fred Couples nearly holed out for eagle on the 18th.
Had Couples made the shot, he and junior partner Nickolas Martinez would’ve shot a 63 to finish at 20-under, tying Avrit and O’Meara. The tiebreaker (low round of the day) would’ve given Martinez and Couples the win.
Instead, Couples and Martinez had to settle for a birdie and 64, giving the 16-year-old Avrit and O’Meara the title by one.
The First Tee of Central Coast member was able to celebrate something that Arnold Palmer never did – a victory at Pebble Beach.
“It’s an amazing feeling. It was a dream to just come here,” said Avrit, who helped his team nine shots in Friday’s first round at Poppy Hills, where the duo took a four-shot lead over the field with a 10-under 61. “Playing with Mark was so much fun. I learned a lot from him.”
With Avrit’s win, the JTNC continued a recent theme of being a force in the Pro-Junior. Avrit’s victory was the third by a JTNC member in the last five years, following former JTNC member Casie Cathrea’s win in 2011 and Michelle Xie’s title in 2013.
Before Meyers’ miracle last year, McCarthy was set to win via the tiebreaker.
Overall, the JTNC had another great First Tee Open showing, with three other members – David Laskin (T-6), Daniel Conolly (T-8) and Bibilani Liu (T-10) – all finishing within the Top 10.
The scenario couldn’t have been more perfect.
In what could have been one of his last appearances at Pebble Beach, 66-year-old Tom Watson came to the new 17th hole with a chance to win The First Tee Open title.
Instead of a pitch shot, this time it was a bunker shot for a potential birdie. It didn’t happen, as Watson had to settle for a bogey and a second-place finish to winner Esteban Toledo.
But for two days, it was vintage Watson at Pebble Beach.
A day after turning back the clock with a 65 – his lowest round ever at Pebble Beach – Watson kept it going with a final round 67 that was fueled by four straight birdies on the front-nine.
“I was just trying to shoot my age two days in a row,” said Watson, who upon reaching the 18th studied the scoreboard as if he was cramming for an exam at Stanford. “I didn’t get it done.”
Nevertheless, Watson relished every moment of it.
“It was still fun. You remember those times like 1982 and the positive shots,” Watson said. “I had my opportunities.”
Watson still had another chance on the 18th, but he hit his greenside bunker shot fat and missed his birdie try.
“I know that putt like the back of my hand and I pushed it. It was a disappointing way to finish,” he said.
Considering that nearly everyone was rooting him on, it was.