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Nick Lyerly wins Rowan Junior Open

By Dennis Davidson

dennis.davidson@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE — Not even a month after winning the Horace Billings Rowan County Amateur, teenager Nick Lyerly has added another championship to his amazing golf year.

On Tuesday at Warrior Golf Club, Lyerly, a rising junior at East Rowan, shot a 67 to claim a one-stroke victory in the 8th annual Rowan Junior Open Golf Championship. Lyerly’s total for the two-day event was 133, following his 66 on Monday at The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis.

Lyerly edged Stephen Carroll, a junior at Concord High School, who came in at 134. Carroll actually had the first round lead over Lyerly by firing a 65 on Monday at Irish Creek, but slipped to a 69 yesterday.

Both players broke the tournament record of 136, set by N.C. State-bound Davis Richards in 2013.

Ben Woodruff, a 15-year-old from Huntersville, tied the old tournament record at 136, shooting a sizzling 66 on Tuesday. Woodruff, a sophomore at Hough High School, finished third overall (ages 14-18) and won the 14-15 age group, topping Salisbury resident Michael Childress by three strokes.

Lyerly fired a blistering 31 on the front nine on Tuesday, moving past Carroll, a familiar opponent. When Lyerly won the state high school 3A golf championship in May, Carroll finished third.

“It was a grind but I had some steady play,” said Lyerly. “I hit a bad drive on the first hole coming out, but was still able to make birdie there. Then I had a bogey on No. 3 (a par-3) but made three straight birdies after that.”

Lyerly had five of his seven birdies on the front nine in shooting his 31. “On the back, I still made good shots,” he added. “I just made two bogeys that I shouldn’t have, but they really didn’t cost me.”

Carroll did have a chance after Lyerly bogeyed holes 14 and 15, but after that, the East Rowan ace made no mistakes.

“On 15, I hit two decent shots, was 20 feet from the hole and then three-putted,” said Lyerly. “After that, I knew I only had a one-shot lead and just concentrated on making good shots and not making any stupid mistakes.”

Carroll and Lyerly both birdied No. 17 and had pars on No. 18. Carroll had a great recovery on the final hole, after his long drive went left and ended up on the No. 10 tee box. He got up and down for his par, but still fell one shot short.

Lyerly played it safe on No. 18, with a perfect drive and second shot. His eight-foot birdie putt came up just short of the hole. “I knew Steve had missed his birdie putt and the last thing I wanted to do was three-putt and go into a playoff, so I just made sure the speed was good, to have a tap-in par.”

For Carroll, it was another loss to Lyerly, but he was still positive afterward.

“I putted really well Monday and not as well today, and Nick didn’t make enough mistakes,” said Carroll. “It’s hard to beat somebody that, for the most part, doesn’t make mistakes. He (Lyerly) had a 67 today and that’s hard to beat.

“Just one of those days,” continued Carroll. “I’ve played well all summer. I’ve played well in this tournament but just got beat by somebody that played better. I shot seven under and lost, so I’ll take it. I’m not going to be mad about it.”

Woodruff was definitely happy to finish third overall and win his age group, just before school starts again. “I played the par 5s really well, played them at four-under and coming in, I made a few putts that really helped,” said Woodruff. “It’s one of my last tournaments of the summer so I was happy to close it out well.”

Childress, who like Woodruff, had a 70 on Monday, shot a 69 on Tuesday. The Cannon School sophomore was happy for Woodruff, also a familiar foe.

“Ben played awesome,” said Childress. “We’re really good friends so it’s great to see him do that.”

Childress said that he struggled to give himself chances on the front nine. “The way I was hitting the ball, I didn’t score all that badly, just kind of tough to pull out the win when somebody’s got 10-foot birdie putts and I’ve got eight-footers for par,” he said. “But all in all, to hit the ball like that, and still shoot 69, I can’t be upset. Ben just played really well and all the credit to him.”

Brian Lee, Warrior’s PGA professional, was pleased with the event, as was Alan Cress, from Irish Creek.

“We had another quality field and our local talent continued to show that golf in Rowan County is still strong,” said Lee.
By winning on Tuesday, Lyerly earned the first invitation to the 2016 Joe Cheves Junior event in Morganton.  Lyerly’s win in another tournament landed him a spot in this year’s Cheves Junior Invitational, which begins later this month.
“The Cheves invitations only go to the winners of certain junior events across the Southeast that have demonstrated consistent, quality fields,” added Lee. “We are honored to be considered one of those qualifying events.”
Lyerly, who finished eighth in a big tournament in Kansas last week, was looking forward to the Cheves, which is played at Mimosa Hills.
When asked if he had a chance to relax at all this summer, Lyerly, ranked seventh among juniors in North Carolina, replied: “We had a family vacation at the beach — but I still played golf.”
NOTES: After the top three overall players, there was a three-way tie for fourth place at 139 between Childress, Candler Rice of Asheville and Louis Lambert of Charlotte  … East Rowan’s Logan Shuping, the event’s defending champion, finished 10th with a two-day total of 142 … there were only two girls in the tournament — Alexis Jarrell of Davidson won at 152, followed by Alexandria Bare of Kannapolis at 156.
Jarrell, 15, is a student a Community School Davidson and has been playing golf since she was 3 years old. “I played really well today (77),” she said. “My short game was good, saved me on a lot of holes, and I birdied two of the par 3s.” … Abhay Gupta of Concord (142) won the boys ages 11-13 group … Aiden McCall of Mooresville (83) won the boys 8-10 group.

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