George Bradford of Woodbine showed a distinct flair for the dramaticby winning the 55th annual Jimmy Flattery Juniors golf tournament atHunt Valley Golf Club on Friday.
Bradford's victory in the prestigious tournament, which draws competitors from several states and is one of the oldest junior tournaments in the country, came on the third extra hole played to break a tie.
Bradford, a Wilde Lake High School senior, led his match-play opponent, Steve Goodley of York, Pa., by three strokes after 10 holes ofthe boys 15-17 championship. But by hole 15, Bradford and Goodley were deadlocked. And by 17, thanks to Bradford's bogey and Goodley's par on that hole, Goodley led by a stroke.
With one hole to play, itdidn't look good for Bradford.
The 2-handicap golfer got a break when Goodley's drive on 18, an uphill 200-yard par-3, missed the green to the left. Bradford followed with a drive that took his ball 15 feet from the pin. Bradford got another break when Goodley's par putt hung on the lip. Bradford sank his par putt and the two golfers retreated to the first hole for a playoff. Each shot 71 for the round.
On the first playoff hole, a 366-yard par-4 with a dog-leg to the right, Bradford used a wood instead of his customary 1-iron and the balllanded pin-high just off the green -- a tremendous drive that put him in command. His second shot left him five feet from the pin. But hemissed the easy birdie putt, giving giving Goodley new life.
"I've been having trouble with my putting this summer," Bradford said. "During a tournament round in July, I three-putted nine times. Two weeks ago I spent a whole week just practicing putting and chipping."
Goodley meanwhile managed to save his par, so the two golfers went onto a second playoff hole. They both parred that one.
Bradford wonthe title on the third extra hole by shooting a third straight par while Goodley hit a sand trap and ended up bogeying. Bradford shot consistently all day with 14 pars, five birdies and just two bogeys for the 21 holes.
It is the second major junior tournament Bradford has won in two years. Last summer he won the 57th Frank Emmett Schoolboy Tournament in Vienna, Va.
Bradford won the Flattery by topping afield of 60 that was cut to 32 on opening day Monday with a stroke-play round that featured an 84 cut. Bradford shot 80 to qualify.
The 16-year-old then won four straight match-play rounds to reach Friday's title match. He won seven holes to his opponent's six on Tuesday.On Wednesday he won seven to his rival's five; Thursday morning he took three to his opponent's one; and on Thursday afternoon he had four to his adversary's three.
"On the last day the course played real long, and that helped me," Bradford said. He is well-known on the junior golf circuit for his prodigious drives of 300 yards.
Goodleywasn't a total stranger to Bradford. The two met July 14-20, during the Junior World Optimist Tournament in San Diego. But Bradford shot 80-79-80 for the first three rounds and missed the cut by four strokes.
In fact, he has not scored nearly as well as he would like in the 10 tournaments he has played so far this summer.
Bradford said his new coach, Rick Krebs of Turf Valley, "changed my swing to flatten it out and give me more consistency. But it's taken me a long whileto feel comfortable with it. I haven't been in a groove."
He's also spent less time working on his short game because he's been concentrating on the new swing. "I'm hitting it better now," he said. "Oncemy putting is together I'll stop being so streaky."
Last week's win represented the kind of breakthrough Bradford has been hoping for.
Physically, he's grown an inch and added 10 pounds since last year. He's now 6-feet-2 and 180 pounds, and the new swing is better-suited to his height. Although he has struggled a bit with it he thinks the new swing will pay dividends in the long run. He's hungry to win some type of college golf scholarship and is interested in South Carolina State or some other school in the South.
Bradford is also an outstanding soccer player but said he probably won't play for Wilde Lake's soccer team this fall in order to concentrate on American JuniorGolf Association events. "Those events get scouted by college coaches," he said. "Soccer is a good sport but I've just lost my interest in it. Golf is my favorite. It makes me work hard."