Jake Herring of Wilson poses with trophy for winning the Carolinas Golf Association's 21st annual North Carolina Junior Boys 13 and Under championpionship Tuesday at Asheboro City Golf Course. It is the first CGA Junior title for Herring.
By Tom Ham
Senior Staff Writer
Wilson junior golf phenom Jake Herring celebrated his first PGA championship Tuesday, capturing the 21st N.C. Junior Boys 13 and Under Championship over the par 35-35——70, 5,738-yard Asheboro City Golf Course layout.
After deadlocking for second place among 45 entrants in stroke-play qualifying, Herring, a rising freshman at Fike High, advanced into match play, winning a trio of nine-hole matches before conquering Davis Adams of Raleigh 1-up in the 18-hole final Tuesday afternoon.
The 18 holes of qualifying and the round-of-16 match were contested Monday, followed by the nine-hole quarterfinals and semifinals and the 18-hole final on Tuesday.
In his four matches, Herring, the son of Charlie and Lori Herring, trailed just once — and for just one hole — in his 3 and 2 semifinals conquest of Abhay Gupta of Concord.
The Asheboro course is a nine-hole layout and, along the way, Herring birdied No. 3 on five of seven visits.
“This is my first PGA title,” Herring, in an interview Wednesday evening, exclaimed of the championship sanctioned by the Carolinas Golf Association. “I’m satisfied but I could have done a lot better. The outcome was great and that’s all that matters.”
Herring carded a 36-36—72 in qualifying to deadlock for second place and earned the No. 2 seed.
Against Adams, a rising eighth-grader, in the championship match, he led 1-up after nine holes and then claimed Nos. 10, 11 and 12 to go 4-up with six holes left. Along the way, Herring birdied Nos. 3 and 6.
However, Adams birdied the par-5, No. 13 layout and, after both parred No. 14, Adams won Nos. 15 and 16, cutting Herring’s advantage to 1-up with two holes left.
A halve was the result on No. 17 after Adams missed a short birdie putt and Herring got up and down from over the green to match Adams’ par.
On No. 18, both faced demanding birdie putts because of a difficult pin placement. From 12 feet away, Adams missed his birdie attempt. Herring needed only to two-putt from 10 feet away to emerge the champion. Herring narrowly missed his birdie try and tapped in for par.
“I was very confident,” Herring said of the final. “I was coming off two decent matches and felt good. Winning 3 and 2 in the semifinals against a very good player was a confidence boost.”
In the round of 16, Herring ousted Calvin Hawkins of Lexington 2-up. The match started on No. 3 and Herring grabbed the lead for keeps with a birdie.
However, Herring sputtered and Hawkins trailed only 1-down with the final hole left. Herring prevailed on No. 2 with a par.
In the quarterfinals, Herring turned back No. 7 Tyler Strickland of Holly Springs 1-up. Herring saw a 3-up advantage dwindle to even when Strickland won No. 8. However, Herring drained a testy 4-foot par putt on No. 9 to prevail.
Then came the 3 and 2 triumph against No. 3 Gupta in the semis — where Adams ousted top-seeded Caleb Surrat of Matthews 1-up after 10 holes.
“That was one of the toughest matches I’ll have,” Herring reflected on his showdown against Gupta.
Gupta took the lead on No. 2, but Herring rebounded to win Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 — birdieing Nos. 3, 4 and 6. Herring ended the match by matching Gupta’s par on No. 7 and stood 3-under for the seven holes.
The match-play format appealed to Herring.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s a very fun way of playing golf. I enjoy the game of golf better in match play.”
Last Friday at Goldsboro Municipal Golf Club, Herring qualified for the Dogwood State Junior Boys’ Championship by tying for 20th in stroke-play qualifying with a round of 39-35—74, 3-over-par.
The 42 low scores qualified for the championship to be contested at Bermuda Run Country Club on August 1-3.
Herring’s next stop during a busy summer will be Pinehurst this weekend for the North Carolina Big I tournament. Herring will be the youngest entrant.
He then competes in the Ages 16-18 division in the Larry Pittman Memorial/Wilson County Junior Golf Championship on July 24-26, where he looks forward to playing against reigning champion Bryson Boyette, the current North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A individual champion.