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Heralded Wilson junior golfer Jake Herring launched a demanding summer schedule with a rousing performance last weekend at Cutter Creek Golf Club in Greene County.
Herring, the 3-A Big East Conference Player of the Year as a Fike High freshman and a North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A state qualifier, not only captured the Ages 13-14 division in the Tarheel Youth Golf Association’s Bojangles Junior Open but seized the overall championship in a playoff against Ages 15-16 victor Frank Gilliam of Raleigh.
In the regulation 36 holes, the 14-year-old Herring posted rounds of 73 and 71 for an even-par 144 total. He outdistanced Ages 13-14 runner-up Kareem Elkassem of Raleigh by 10 shots. Gilliam, in Ages 15-16, fashioned a 73-71--144 as well. Ironically, the playoff resulted when Herring and Gilliam each birdied his final layout. Herring rolled in a 12-foot putt.
Herring struggled on the first hole of the playoff, but survived — matching Gilliam’s par by sinking a 5-foot putt.
Next up was a 546-yard, par-5, No. 11 layout. Both players left themselves with birdie opportunities. Putting from the fringe of the green, Gilliam missed his attempt. However, Herring drained a bending right, downhill putt from some 15 feet.
“I was really happy,” Herring expressed, “especially since the course was playing 7,000 yards. I putted pretty well, which saved me some shots. My irons were a little off (the final round), so my putting helped.”
To capture the championship, Herring, because of rain and thunderstorms, was forced to complete his opening round and play his final round the same day.
“It didn’t change my mentality,” Herring said in a post-tournament interview. “I just came out here with the same game plan — just make pars and birdies, and be happy with it.
Herring responded with four birdies the final 18 regulation holes. Gilliam also notched four final-round birdies.
The Wilson golfer savored conquering an older competitor for overall supremacy.
Herring acknowledged a boost in confidence and added: “It gives me more momentum to go beat older players and have fun while doing it.”
Herring described his accomplishment as “extra special,” adding: “It means a lot and I’m glad to just be done.”
Herring’s summer schedule includes several more events, starting with the Webb Simpson Invitational on the Pine Needles and Mid Pines courses at Pinehurst later this month.