FORT MYERS — Brittany Shin and Landon Weber had already sewn up their victories, but one title remained undecided, which meant the conclusion of the 20th Nolan Henke Patty Berg Junior Masters carried a dramatic ambiance similar to a major on a Sunday evening, albeit on a far smaller scale.
With a crowd of about 50 spectators following the action in the 10th fairway at Cypress Lake Country Club and then semi-circling the green, Australian Anthony Quayle captured the boys 16-18 title when he calmly made a 14-foot birdie putt to edge Cape Coral’s Jake Sherwin on the first playoff hole Friday afternoon.
Quayle, who is a senior at the same high school in Brisbane that produced Jason Day, said he never noticed the throng of fellow golfers, parents, officials, volunteers and media that gathered to watch the playoff.
“I was just looking at the shot I had to play instead of who was watching,” said Quayle, who started the day six shots out of the lead, but fired a three-under-par 69 to tie Sherwin, a 2012 Evangelical Christian School graduate who has signed with Florida Gulf Coast University.
Joined by some of his high school teammates and his father, Quayle made his first visit to the United States a memorable one.
“To meet the people and see the lifestyle here, it’s been great. The golf courses are awesome. Jake was a great guy. It was awesome to play the last two rounds with him,” said the 17-year-old Quayle, whose 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame resembles a young Ernie Els.
At the other end of the size spectrum, the petite Shin didn’t need to work overtime to claim the girls title against competition that was far older and bigger.
Shin, 11, is not much taller than a golf bag, but the emerging star from Cape Coral played with tremendous heart and displayed poise well beyond her youth. She made birdies on four of her first six holes on her second nine. Her 228 total — which included a final round 72 — was three strokes better than runner-up Brittany LaPadula of Port St. Lucie.
“As I got four birdies, I wasn’t as stressed out as I was because then I knew I was able to win,” Shin said.
Weber, a Bonita Springs resident who will start his freshman year at Fort Myers High next month, stamped an exclamation point on his victory in the boys 13-15 division with birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 on his inward nine. Weber, who plans to play golf and basketball for the Green Wave, said he struggled early, but not late as he fired his second straight 69.
“I couldn’t hit a fairway (on his first nine). I was struggling just to make pars,” said Weber, who played the front side in even par. “I got my drives straightened out and it was a lot easier then. I put it on the green and made my putts. I just wanted to play as good as I did (on Thursday) and I did.”
Weber’s 210 total was a comfortable eight shots in front of runner-up Kaleb Johnson of Naples. Andrew Potter of Naples finished third at 228.
Matt Leiti, a rising senior at Gulf Coast High, fired a 71 and finished third in the 16-18 division with a 222 total despite playing the tournament with an injury that has forced him to see a chiropractor.
“I came out with a bruised rib not thinking anything would happen, but I ended up hitting fairways and greens,” said Leiti, who had an outstanding day on the greens with just 24 putts.
Leiti’s classmate Grace Rokela finished with a 79, her second round of the tournament in the 70s. She tied for fourth in the girls division.
“I missed a lot of putts, but 79 is becoming my bad round, so it’s a lot better than when I was shooting 100 last year,” Rokela said.
Ryan Cseplo, a newcomer to Naples and to golf, opened with a 73 on Wednesday, but closed with an 83 to finish at 234.
“It’s hard to get used to the Florida golf courses. I felt like I could have done it here, but it just didn’t work out,” said Cseplo, who started playing golf just two years ago. The recent high school graduate moved to Naples from Cleveland two weeks ago and plans to hone his game at Tiburón.