By Scott Guthrie
Under the black Titleist tent just behind the 18th green of the Woodside Course at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton, Frank Lindwall slowly removed his weathered hat, let out a sigh and then buried his head in his arms.
The high school sophomore from Cedar Rapids seemed to be trying to delay the inevitable, not wanting to sign his scorecard that would make his 6-over-par final round official.
Or, perhaps the 16-year-old didn’t want to see tournament co-winners Drew Kiehl and David Perkins celebrate a win that slipped away with a bogey on the final hole to drop Lindwall into third place by one stroke.
Lindwall, Kiehl and Perkins were three of the 63 boys ages 12-18 who competed in the American Junior Golf Association Preseason tournament this past weekend.
The AJGA is a non-profit organization that helps young men and women earn college scholarships through competitive junior golf. According to its website, more than 300 AJGA alumni play on the PGA and LPGA tours, including Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Stacy Lewis. The AJGA currently has more than 6,000 members.
“Hopefully this is their starting point. I know a lot of them play locally, and this is just one way to get them going nationally,” said Hailey Marrero, tournament coordinator.
Players earn points, which they call stars, based on their performances in AJGA events, which goes toward eligibility for future tournaments.
“I feel great. I needed some stars,” said Kiehl, 17, from Louisville, Kentucky. “This is my first AJGA, so it felt good to get some stars in and see if I can play a couple more tournaments in this tour.”
The eight stars Kiehl and Perkins received for winning the tournament did not come easily though. Kiehl and Perkins trailed Lindwall by six strokes and four strokes respectively, going into Sunday’s final round.
Lindwall, who posted a 3-under-par 69 during Saturday’s soggy opening round, was unable to maintain his torrid pace Sunday. After making just one bogey Saturday, Lindwall made five bogeys, including a double and a triple Sunday.
“I definitely wanted to win, so it’s a little disappointing not to, but congratulations to whoever did,” Lindwall said.
Perkins, playing with Lindwall, also made five bogeys Sunday, but was able to avoid any big mistakes. The 16-year-old from East Peoria remained calm as pressure mounted on the 18th hole. Needing a par to stay atop the leaderboard, Perkins was able to get up-and-down to claim a share of the title.
“I wanted to play my game and be consistent, make birdies,” Perkins said. “I started the day with two straight birdies. That helped. I kind of let it go a little bit there. The strongest part of my game is being consistent and that’s kind of what I was thinking about the whole round.”
Kiehl had the most consistent day of the three juniors. He hammered home 15 pars and two birdies on his way to a one-under 71. Like Perkins, Kiehl also pared the final hole to remain tied for first.
“I felt solid,” Kiehl said. “I hit the ball, hit lots of fairways today. [I] couldn’t get a bunch of putts to drop but when I needed them I got them, to drop. Just fairways and greens were the key to my round today and I think I accomplished that pretty well.”
The players were unsure what their next events would be, but Kiehl said he plans to return to Louisville and play locally for a while.
The AJGA has three more preseason events before its official season kicks off. This is the only stop the tour is making in Illinois.