|Bartow Yellow Jackets|
|High School Football|
|Youth Villa Golf|
2012 Florida Sheriffs
Bartow native Lee White captures first Youth Villa Classic Title!
Lee White clinched the Youth Villa Classic after landing a sand wedge to within 20 inches of the cup on the 17th hole, tapping in for birdie to open up a three-stroke lead.
The Bartow native shot even-par 72 on his home course and finished at 11-under for a two-stroke victory over Jaren Goode of Winter Haven in the 49th edition of one of Polk County's major amateur golf tournaments.
"Ever since I started playing out here, I've always wanted to do it at some point, and I'm glad that it happened now, because this might be my last one,'' said the 23-year-old White, who plans to turn pro this fall.
White, who just graduated from Florida Southern, became a two-time champion in Polk's majors, having won the 2010 Polk County Amateur Championship at Lake Region.
The Bartow High School product hoisted the Villa trophy on the 18th green after a two-putt par with flashbulbs going off in the dusk and a gallery of about 150 cheering the local favorite.
"All the great players around Polk County are on that trophy, players like Andy Bean and Bob Murphy. There's been a lot of great players come through this tournament and win it, so it means a whole lot,'' White said. "I wouldn't have wanted to move on without it.''
White, with his mom Kelly in the gallery as usual, gave himself breathing room with the 56-degree sand wedge from 93 yards on the par-4 17th hole after holding a one-shot edge over Jeff Fleeman through 16 holes.
White and his FSC teammates went to the YMCA Par 3 on Wednesdays to focus on wedge play, calling them "Wedge Wednesdays.''
"This year I really stressed my wedge game and I practiced them a whole lot,'' White said. "That was pretty much one of my favorite yardages, and I just tried to think back to our wedge practice at the Par 3 course. And I stuffed it.''
The three-shot cushion was more than enough to hold off Goode, the runner-up for the second straight year in the 54-hole event.
White, the 36-hole leader by two shots after rounds of 68-65, survived a roller coaster of an afternoon that saw two- and three-shot swings between him and Fleeman. But White never lost the lead.
Case Gard shot 71 and tied for third at 8-under with Fleeman, who posted a 73, while Mark Cusic finished fifth at 7-under after a 74 on a day that saw three rain delays but no standing water.
Goode fired a 67, playing in the next-to-last foursome in front of White, Fleeman, Gard and Cusic.
"Really, I'm not that disappointed, shooting 67,'' Goode said. "It was windy. There were a lot of people out there in the group behind us.''
Goode, 22, carded eight birdies, including No. 17 and 18. But the three bogeys stung, especially on the sixth hole.
"The one on No. 6 was a real killer, bogeying that par-5,'' Goode said. "I just had a mental lapse on my approach shot and hooked it left under the trees. So that's basically like losing two shots to the field right there.''
The sixth hole played a pivotal role for the leaders.
White suffered a two-stroke penalty for a lost ball on No. 6 after hitting a 3-wood from 250 yards out into the oaks in the left rough. But he made a 12-foot putt to salvage bogey while Fleeman birdied the hole.
"I just pulled it a little and it hit the tree and we never found it,'' White said. "I went back and hit an iron down there and wedged it up and one-putted for the bogey.''
After a bogey on No. 7, White was tied with Fleeman.
And after a birdie on No. 12 for a three-shot lead, White double-bogeyed the 13th hole, taking two swings to get out of the right bunker. Fleeman, meanwhile, holed a 14-footer for birdie for a three-shot swing to pull even again.
But White righted the ship on the par-5 14th with a birdie, while Fleeman took a bogey, to regain a two-shot advantage over Fleeman and Gard.
"The par-5 play hurt me,'' said Fleeman, who was even on them Monday. "Fourteen was the kicker with me bogeying and Lee birdieing.''
Fleeman drilled a 25-foot putt into the hole for birdie on the par-3 15th to get within one again.
But White's birdie on 17, combined with Fleeman's bogey, set the stage for victory.
Steven Hancock of Lakeland won the Youth Division by one shot over Jack Brown of Bartow. T.J. Wright of Lakeland finished third, three behind.
Hancock, who closed with a 79 after shooting 75-71, carded a 36 on the back nine after a 43 on the front.
"The irons were key, and they didn't pick up until the back nine,'' said the 18-year-old Hancock. "The irons were really on the first two days, and I think that was the key to my victory.''