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Jacksonville local wins historic Junior Players title at TPC Sawgrass

Jacksonville local wins historic Junior Players title at TPC Sawgrass

Let’s face it: After dominating the second round of the 17th Junior Players Championship on Saturday, Miles Russell fell flat on the front nine during Sunday’s final round at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

And he’ll tell you.

“Just didn’t play very well,” said the 14-year-old Jacksonville Beach resident.

MORE: Junior Players leaderboard

But a long walk to the 10th tee gave him a chance to calm down and realize he was still leading the American Junior Golf Association tournament — even if a four-shot margin to start the day had shrunk to one over Phillip Dunham of Ponte Vedra Beach.

Russell then fired a bogey-free back nine, highlighted by a nervy swing on the scariest tee shot under pressure in golf, regardless of age, and with a closing 71 became the first resident of the First Coast to win the Junior Players by four shots over Dunham at 9-under-par 207.

First one-two finish

Dunham, who plays practices at the TPC Sawgrass, battled hard and matched the low score of the third round, which greeted the contestants with the traditional Sunday pins for The Players and an odd late summer wind, coming briskly out of the North and Northeast.

“It was tough … you’ve just got to know how to handle it,” said Dunham, who put the pressure on Russell by making only one bogey. “Just kind of know where to put the ball.”

And if it’s any consolation, Dunham joined Russell in posting the best finish by two area players in the Junior Players. The previous best was a tie for third in 2007 by Bud Cauley, and there had never been two First Coast players among the top 10.

Will Hartman (71) of Marvin, N.C., finished third at 3-under, Tyler Watts (70) of Huntsville, Ala., was fourth at 2-under. Tyler Mawhinney (73) of Fleming Island tied for sixth at even par and Jackson Byrd (78) of St. Simons Island, Ga., tied for ninth at 2-over.

Russell also became the youngest winner of the Junior Players by nearly two years over Khavish Varadan (2016) and is the first to win the Junior Players and the Junior PGA in the same year.

Large gallery encourages Russell

Russell has been coming to The Players Championship since he was two years old and used to score autographs at the 17th hole during practice rounds. As a result, holding a trophy for winning a tournament at the Home of The Players was huge for the skinny, scrappy left-hander.

“It’s a big one since I’m from here,” he said. “It means a lot.”

And he was followed…


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