ROYAL OAK, Mich. (Tuesday, June 23 –Sean Maruyama, one of the youngest players in the field at 16, demonstrated the poise of a polished veteran Thursday as he held off a late charge by Trevor Brown to capture the 99th Western Junior at Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak, Michigan, in suburban Detroit.
Maruyama, of Los Angeles, closed with a 2-under par 70 for a 72-hole total of 10-under 278, winning the nation's oldest junior amateur by two strokes.
Brown briefly took the lead in the final round before settling for second at 280 -- matching Maruyama over the last 18 with a final round 70.
Maruyama held the second- and third-round leads and entered the final round with a two-shot cushion.
"It feels amazing," Maruyama said. "It's the biggest tournament I've ever won. I definitely did feel the pressure. I made a mess of things on the first hole (a bogey 6). I pretty much kept it together after that.
"I got lucky on a few holes," he added. "I snapped a 3-wood on No. 16, and it ended up in the fairway. I don't know what it hit."
When the pressure was on, Maruyama played his best. He didn't miss a fairway on his back nine.
"I knew after 16 that all I needed was a bogey-par," he said. "And that's what I did."
With the win, Maruyama became the third Western Junior champion from California in the past four years. He follows Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge, who won the 2013 Western Junior, and KK Limbhasut, who won the following year.
He also joins a list of past Western Junior winners that includes PGA TOUR superstars Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk, a fact that was not lost on Maruyama.
"It means so much to join this list of past champions," he said. "One day, I want someone to look at it, see my name and go, 'Whoa, his name is on the trophy. I want to win this event, too.'"
The 18-year-old Brown, from Austin, Texas, will play at Rice University in the fall. Brown was the co-leader after the first round before falling back to a tie for third, four shots behind Maruyama, after a second round 72. He gained two shots on Maruyama in the third round before moving into the lead midway through the final 18.
Playing in the threesome ahead of Maruyama, Brown caught the Californian at 9-under after making birdie at the 536-yard, par 5 No. 9. Brown's birdie, set up by a remarkable recovery shot from the right rough, at the 412-yard, par 4 No. 12 gave him the lead at 10-under.
That's when the tide turned in Maruyama's favor. Brown took an unplayable lie after his tee shot on No. 13 nestled up against a fence. That stroke cost Brown, as he made bogey to drop back into a tie.
Maruyama reached the 549-yard par 5 No. 13 in two and two-putted for birdie to regain the lead.
Both made par on No. 14 while Brown lipped out on a birdie attempt from 15 feet on No. 15. Maruyama made a pressure-packed 4-footer to save par as Brown looked on while walking up the 16th fairway.
The 372-yard, No. 16 proved pivotal. Brown's 15-foot birdie try rolled four feet past the cup, and he missed his par putt coming back. When Maruyama made his 17-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole a few minutes later, he had a three-stroke lead with two holes to play.
"It was crazy," Brown said. "I was walking up the 10th fairway, and my caddie told me (I was tied). Then I made birdie on 12. I was in the rough 170 (yards) away and I hit an 8-iron. I don't normally hit an 8-iron that far. I landed it on perfectly.
"On the putt on 16, I wouldn't say I was aggressive," he said. "It was the adrenaline. When you get like, that you hit it harder.
Still, Brown found reason to be happy with his week at Red Run.
"It's been a blast playing here. It was a joy to play something different," he said. "It's green up here. We don't get this in Austin. It's an honor to finish this high."
Both Maruyama and Brown qualified for the Western Amateur with their one-two finish. In July Brown plans to attempt to qualify for the U. S. Amateur, to be played at nearby Oakland Hills Country Club in Birmingham.
For Maruyama, he'll return for his junior year at Campbell Hall High School in Studio City.
Ryggs Johnston of Libby, Mont., was third, a shot behind Brown after carding the day's low round of 6-under 66. Travis Vick of Houston, Texas, was fourth at 5-under 283 with a closing round of 73.