The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 15, 2014

Mike Mastovich | Juniors bring fresh flavor to 61st Amateur

Mike Mastovich
Associated Press

JOHNSTOWN — The Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions has attracted some of the best young golfers in the game during the past six decades.

Tiger Woods was a teenager when he played the Sunnehanna Country Club course.

Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Rickie Fowler also made their marks here early in their distinguished careers.

Sam Burns and a strong group of juniors took a step toward adding to that legacy during the 61st Sunnehanna Amateur.

The 17-year-old Burns finished as runner-up to Will Murphy after a three-hole playoff on Saturday. The two finished in a tie at 6-under-par 274 after the final round.

Burns displayed poise and showed a competitive spirit. He often played and acted like a veteran of the tournament.

When someone asked Burns if he could have envisioned playing among such a strong field of amateur golfers and being in contention to win, he replied:

“No doubt, I prepared to come up here and beat all of these guys.”

Burns continued, “To finish second is not what I wanted but it’s not a missed cut. It’s a good thing to move on from. You can miss a cut and be upset but to finish second is something to be positive about.”

Burns talked about coming back next year and finishing the job.

It would be great to see him return to the Westmont course in 2015.

Burns already has won three Louisiana high school state championships. He still has his senior season in front of him. Louisiana State University thinks so much of his game, Burns is a recruit set to join the Tiger program in 2015.

“He’s a great player,” said Sunnehanna champion Murphy, a standout at the University of South Carolina. “When I was that age, I couldn’t have dreamed of even playing in this tournament let alone competing.

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“Hat’s off to him. He’s going to be a great player.”

Burns has company too.

The Sunnehanna Amateur field included 10 junior golfers – those who have not yet played at the college level.

The young talent produced a number of high place-winners at Sunnehanna, including: John Oda of Honolulu, Hawaii, who tied for sixth; Oklahoma State recruit Zachary Bachou, who tied for 12th; and University of Texas prospect Doug Ghim, who tied for 25th.

“We’re not really focusing on winning. We’re trying to play our own games, keeping it in the fairways and on the greens,” said UNLV-bound Oda, a two-time Hawaii high school state champion. “Actually, I was pretty nervous playing with these guys. This field is stacked and we all know it. We set our expectations just a little lower and we just try to do our best. Our best happened to be pretty good.”

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Local angle: Two golfers representing the region showed improvement over the course of the Amateur.

Sunnehanna Country Club champion Derek Hayes shot a 79-79-76 for a 234. He improved by three strokes on Saturday.

Somerset’s Nick Sanner, the Greater Johnstown Tournament champion, shaved strokes off his score each day, shooting 80-76-74 for a 230. Neither local golfer made the final-round cut.

Will Wears of Latrobe shot a third-round 79 and finished at 230 for three rounds.

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Lowlight: Curtis Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., shot the low round on Saturday with a 4-under-par 66.

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Extra time: The playoff format used the aggregate score through three extra holes.

The playoff started on the par-4, 439-yard first hole, and continued on the par-4, 430-yard No. 2.

No. 7 served as the final playoff hole. The green on No. 2 is adjacent to the tee box on the downhill No. 7, which is a 241-yard, par-3.