Conley Kreigler, 16, found the sand from the 12th tee Thursday morning, but recovered in miraculous fashion, plopping his second shot feet from the cup. Kreigler ended up losing his semifinal in Waskesiu at the 2011 Junior Lobstick. Herald photo by Gary Pearson
--WASKESIU-- On a blustery Thursday in Waskesiu, Garrett Blair of Lanigan limited his errors to advance to Friday morning's final, prevailing on the 14th hole of the 2011 Pepsi Junior Lobstick match-play semifinal.
‚ÄúI was really confident today on my putter,‚ÄĚ said Blair, who Friday participates in his first championship final at Waskesiu. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve been rolling it good all week.‚ÄĚ
Blair took the lead on the third hole, as his semifinal opponent, Conley Kreigler, whizzed his birdie putt by the cup, overcompensating for conditions on the damp, sluggish greens.
‚ÄúI hit some good shots but obviously hit some bad one, that is to be expected,‚ÄĚ said 16-year-old Kreigler.
Blair, 16, doubled his stroke advantage on the par-3 fourth, as Kreigler‚Äôs chip shot from near the green‚Äôs fringe went askew. Blair‚Äôs putter caught fire, and on the par-4 fifth, canned a sublime birdie putt to stretch his advantage to three strokes.
The sun infrequently poked its head from behind the monstrous nimbus, which it did on seven, coinciding with the start of Kreigler‚Äôs brief revival.
Kreigler, who last year removed himself from golf for a season's respite, lofted a lovely chip to the left of the pin. Blair had a chance to halve the hole, but narrowly missed the putt.
Growing in confidence, Kreigler stormed on to win the eighth hole, which put him within reaching distance of Blair, trailing by one. But the eighth was the last hole Kreigler would claim.
It was an impressive comeback for Kreigler, who was competing in his first tournament of the season.
‚ÄúI thought I played pretty good at times today, it‚Äôs just Garrett played good at the time I needed him to play bad,‚ÄĚ said Kreigler.
Kreigler, on the 12th, was trailing by three strokes and made a miraculous recovery from the sand, the ball plopping mere feet from the cup. But his short game was inconsistent throughout the round and malfunctioned at the most meaningful moment.
‚ÄúIt just didn‚Äôt work out the way I wanted but that is alright,‚ÄĚ he said.
Blair played the course like a pro, hitting fairways and greens with, considering the conditions, remarkable regularity. Winning last year‚Äôs consolation final, Blair has a chance to do one better in Friday's final versus Saskatoon‚Äôs Taylor Afseth.
Blair realizes he has a mountain to climb when the final tees off at 10:15 a.m. Friday morning, as Afseth has a wealth of experience and is two years his elder.
‚ÄúI just got to keep the putter rolling good and hit as many greens as I can and I should be good to go,‚ÄĚ said Blair, who was bubbling with enthusiasm and verve after Thursday‚Äôs semifinal victory.
Blair solidified the win on the fourteenth hole when he putted with pronounced precision, nullifying Kreigler‚Äôs chance of clawing back into the match.