Chun An Yu wins 2015 Western Junior

 

The final round of the 98th Western Junior championship provided drama befitting a major championship Thursday, with Taiwan’s Chun An Yu rallying to win the title in a sudden-death playoff at Riverside Golf Club in North Riverside, Illinois.

Yu – an unranked 16-year-old who relocated to Orlando, Florida, from Taiwan in January – beat Yechun “Carl” Yuan, the nation’s No. 19 ranked junior, with a par on the first playoff hole. Yuan bogeyed, the last in a string of five that doomed the University of Washington golf commit.

“I feel so good,” Yu said. “Winning this tournament was my dream from the moment I found out about it. This is a dream come true.”

The playoff was the first for the nation’s oldest national junior golf championship since the Western Golf Association switched the format from match play to stroke play in 1999.

For much of the final 18 holes, Yuan, of Lake Mary, Florida, seemed destined to win the tournament going away.

He had a comfortable, four-stroke lead through 14 as fellow challengers faded away, some visibly fatigued after a challenging week navigating the tight fairways and unforgiving rough at Riverside.

Then Yuan bogeyed No. 15 and closed with three more bogeys, forcing him into a playoff with Yu, who had quietly carded a 2-under 68 nearly an hour earlier to finish even par for the week.

“I think I lost concentration a little bit towards the end,” Yuan said following the playoff loss. “When the body gets tired, it’s hard to pull the trigger and get the right shot. In golf, you can’t go back. This is a learning experience for me.”

For Yu, who attends the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy near Orlando, having his name on the Milt Woodard Champions Trophy alongside PGA TOUR stars Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk is a major accomplishment.

A member of the Taiwanese national team and winner of the Aaron Baddeley Junior (to receive an exemption into the Australian Open in the fall), Yu arrived at Riverside with no major American victories to his name.

Having his father on the bag all week helped change that and made his dream of winning the Western Junior a reality.

“I didn’t play my proudest round a few days ago,” Yu said. “My dad helped me a lot in the final rounds. He gave me a great strategy that helped a lot. I couldn’t have done this without him.”

- Patrick Donohue & Jordan Goltz