Tyler McDaniel stood in the fairway on the 18th hole at Trump National Golf Club on Friday afternoon with a 9-iron in his hand, and his mother stepped into the woods beside the green and took cover near a portable toilet. With the Junior PGA Championship on the line, Jennifer McDaniel couldn’t bear to watch.
Her 17-year-old son stood up to the pressure, sinking a four-foot birdie putt to clinch a one-stroke win in the tournament that brought many of the country’s top junior golfers to Sterling. Tyler McDaniel overcame a tough luck double-bogey on No. 16 with two straight birdies, the last with his mother anxiously peeking through the trees. The Kentucky native shot 69 on Friday to post a 10-under par 274 for the four-day tournament and edge Sam Burns of Louisiana.
“I’d say she was pretty nervous, especially after 16,” McDaniel said after sharing a hug with his mother. “I couldn’t make it too easy on her.”
Amy Lee came through with her own 72nd-hole heroics minutes earlier, hitting a 15-foot par putt to finish a come-from-behind win in the girls’ competition.
Lee trailed Abbey Carlson of Florida by three shots with three holes to play but took advantage when Carlson closed with three straight bogeys.
After Carlson missed her par attempt on No. 18, Lee completed her sand save for par, pumping her fist before the putt reached the cup. The 16-year-old Californian finished at five-under 279 after a final-round 69 on the par-71 course.
“I was never playing bad, so I knew that I still had a chance no matter how many back I was,” said Lee, a rising junior who has verbally committed to play college golf at Southern California.
Though McDaniel made headlines in Kentucky earlier this summer when he became the youngest golfer to win the state’s amateur title, he had never claimed a major national tournament despite a few close calls.
McDaniel got into contention this week with a 65 on Thursday that tied for the tournament’s low round, but he appeared headed for disappointment again after a disastrous 16th hole.
The Kentucky recruit spent 10 minutes looking for his errant drive, only to find it with a reasonable lie in the fescue after the rules official already had declared the ball lost. With the penalty, he carded a 6 on the 465-yard par-4.
Suddenly playing from behind, McDaniel tied Burns for the lead with a two-putt birdie at No. 17 and then hit his approach shot from 158 yards to four feet on the final hole. The man-made 70-foot waterfall that towers behind the 18th green at Trump National provided a soothing soundtrack for the pressure putt, and he calmly dropped in the right-to-left breaker that won it.
“Today all the pins were tucked, and the pressure of winning the tournament was on the line,” McDaniel said. “That’s how I like it.”
Arlington resident Addison Coll, a recent Gonzaga grad who plans to play at Ohio State, finished tied for 23rd at 3 over, fading with a 77 on Friday. Madison rising junior Shannon Brooks fell from contention after a 79 on Thursday and finished tied for 26th at 11 over.