Although the ball looks to be heading left, 18-year-old Taylor Afseth's drive hooks back into the fairway while the other three semifinalists look on. Herald photo by Gary Pearson
--WASKESIU-- Prince Albert’s Preston Rindal was whiskers away from booking a place in Friday's junior golf finals in Waskesiu, but was unable to sink his last putt of the day.
The back-and-forth semifinal was won by Saskatoon’s Taylor Afseth, whose composure on 18 helped him, by the slenderest of margins, on to the finals.
“For the most part today it was pretty much back and forth,” said Afseth. “We hit some good shots. In the end it came down to the short game.”
Both southpaw players displayed glimpses of brilliance, smashing towering drives and chipping delicately from the fringe, but their rounds were marred, on occasion, by inconsistency.
“Both of us didn’t play great,” said Rindal. “He just made less dumb decisions off the tee.”
Rindal had slight trouble with his control from the tee early, but settled into an efficient rhythm as the round progressed.
Afseth enjoyed a one-stroke lead as they strolled to the par-4 fifth and, after a wayward Rindal tee shot, looked likely to double that advantage. But Rindal came close to holing from another time zone on his approach, missing by mere inches. That shot galvanized Rindal, whose subsequent tap-in levelled the match.
Rindal, 18, enjoyed a slight advantage over the next couple of holes, but Afseth's lull was brief, as he was able to square the match through ten. Neither golfer obtained a lead greater than one stroke on the back nine, indicative of the evenness at which the match was played.
Rindal mishit his tee shot on the 16th hole, which Afseth, 18, capitalized on obligingly. He hit a couple of solid shots to retake the precarious one-stroke lead. But Rindal would not go quietly into the afternoon breeze, pounding his tee shot from the par-4 17th onto the green. Suffice to say Rindal won the hole, leaving the match hanging in the balance with one to play.
Rindal’s valiant effort fell agonizingly short on the 18th, but said he was happy with his performance over the course of the week.
Afseth, on the other hand, said he is confident going into the final having never met the winner of the other semifinal, Garrett Blair, in competitive play.
“He looked pretty good,” said Afseth of Blair. “I’m going to have to play really good to beat him tomorrow (Friday).”