Taylor Afseth wins Waskesiu's Junior Lobstick crown

Gary Pearson
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Saskatoon's Taylor Afseth, 18, strikes a beauty from the fairway during Friday's finals in the Junior Lobstick at Waskesiu, which he won with some inspired play. Herald photo by Gary Pearson

--WASKESIU-- Taylor Afseth’s short game was in scintillating form during Friday’s Junior Lobstick final as he knocked down vital putts, emphatically draining a birdie on the 18th hole to seal his first Waskesiu title. 

“One of us had to make those putts today and it just happened to be me,” said 18-year-old Afseth. “My game felt good, the short game finally came along.” 

The finals were played under ideal conditions, contrasting Thursday’s semifinals, where strong, whirly winds occasionally bewildered the foursome

Afseth snatched the early lead, as runner-up Garrett Blair hit into trouble off the tee, finding dense foliage right and short of the par-3 second hole. Though he made a fantastic recovery from a perilous position, Blair wasn’t able to sink the subsequent putt. 

Afseth’s lead, albeit slim, wasn’t overturned throughout the finals. But Blair was always within striking distance, placing unremitting pressure on the champion's shoulders. On the third hole, Afseth stretched his lead to two, his largest cushion of the day. 

Blair, however, played the fourth hole to perfection, immediately answering the call with a birdie. His composure and calm disposition is indicative of a golfer mature beyond his years.

“I’m really confident with my game, I’m hitting it just as hard as the older players,” said the 16-year-old golfing genius from Lanigan. “I’ve been competing in tournaments since I was 11.” 

The par-5 sixth could have spelled disaster for Afseth, whose low trajectory on a chip and run from the green’s fringe left him within feet of the pin. He missed the rudimentary three-foot putt, though, which would have increased his lead to two. 

“You can’t let that haunt you because if it does you’re done,” said Saskatoon’s Afseth, who rebounded like a veteran on the pro tour. “You just got to keep going.” 

Both finalists rarely went awry from the tee, consistently knocking balls onto the fairway with consummate ease. 

But Blair’s second shot on the par-5 eighth nicked a tree, allowing Afseth the chance to hole a high-pressure putt for a two-stroke lead. The champion stepped up and sunk the mid-range putt, punishing Blair for one of his few mistakes on the day.

Resilient as usual, Blair stormed back on the ninth, clawing within one. Just as Blair was on the cusp, for the first time, of leveling the match, Afseth canned a long-range putt on the 10th green. The successful putt looked as though it even caught Afseth off guard, as the ball broke in improbable fashion. One could almost hear Afseth exhale when the ball dropped in. 

The champion did not leave his putter on the 10th hole either, bettering that effort on 11 with an incredible putt that broke to the right significantly, stalling briefly before dropping into the hole. It restored his two-stroke advantage. 

Blair responded again in the seesaw tilt with the shot of the day. He measured his tee shot to perfection on the par-3 12th, the ball miraculously dropping from the heavens within a foot and a half of the cup. 

“I should hit that distance every time,” said Blair jokingly as he sauntered up to the pin, admiring a shot that Tiger Woods can now only dream of executing. 

Blair had a chance to level the match on the 17th hole, but frustratingly left a chip from the fringe short. The tide could have turned, Blair said, if he hit the delicate chip like the rest of the round indicated he would. 

Leading from the outset, Afseth sealed the Waskesiu junior title with a sublime approach on 18 from slightly lengthier grass just right of the fairway. With Afseth’s putting in formidable form, Blair could do little to negate the champion's slim one-shot advantage. 

Draining the birdie putt, Afseth claimed his first junior title at Waskesiu in seven previous attempts. Prince Albert’s Brooke Hobson triumphed in the junior ladies draw.


You can follow Gary Pearson on Twitter: @newagejourno

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Waskesiu, Saskatoon

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