Eckroat edges teammate for OGA Junior Championship

By Ken MacLeod

EDMOND – It’s shaping up to be quite a summer for Austin Eckroat. The rising junior at Edmond North, who burst on the scene by winning the Class 6A state championship as a freshman, captured his second major amateur title in the last three weeks Thursday by winning the Oklahoma Golf Association Junior Amateur Championship.

Facing former Edmond North teammate Rhett Bechtel, who is heading to Southern Nazarene University on a golf scholarship in the fall, Eckroat got off to a slow start, much as he has in all of his matches this week. He bogeyed two of the first four holes to fall two down.

From there, the Oklahoma State commit stepped on the accelerator, making five birdies and no bogeys over the next 13 holes for a 3 and 1 victory.

It wasn’t quite the birdie pace he exhibited in the Scott Robertson Memorial in Roanoke, Va., two weeks ago, when he made 23 birdies in 54 holes to win by five shots. But it was impressive, nonetheless.

"He’s a really strong player," Bechtel said. "I knew I would have to get off to a really good start and I did hit it solid early. But I wanted to pick up a few more birdies because he’s been tearing up the back nine all week."

Eckroat birdied the par-4 seventh hole to pull within one hole, then squared the match on the par-4 eighth when Bechtel made his first bogey. Bechtel rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth to regain the lead at the turn.

Eckroat took command with birdies on 10 and 12, then kept his advantage when Bechtel rolled a birdie putt in from just off the green on the par-5 15th, capping his birdie with a short one of his own.
"I knew when he birdied 10 to make it all square that I was going to have to turn it on, and I just wasn’t able to," Bechtel said. "But it was really fun regardless. I’m proud of making it to the final match. I know how good he is and how well he played for our team. Winning would have been icing on the cake."

Eckroat closed it out in spectacular fashion. After driving right into the trees on the par-4 17th, Eckroat lofted a 7-iron from 170 yards with a tall tree right in front of him and a strong cross wind. The ball floated to rest about 18 inches below the cup for a tap-in birdie that ended the match.

"I knew I had to hit it straight up," Eckroat said. "There was no way to get a 6-iron over the tree. I hit it good and thought it might get to the front of the green. It barely cleared the tree and started to float with the wind. I knew when I saw it land that I had won the match."

Eckroat was complimentary of his high school teammate, who he said has been working hard on his game and demonstrated vast improvement as a senior."

He’s been shooting a lot of good scores. That 65 in the first round was impressive."

Bechtel shot a 65 in the opening round of stroke play qualifying and defeated medalist McCain Shellhardt 2 up in a morning semifinal match. Eckroat advanced by edging David Trimble of Oklahoma City 2 and 1.

In the boys 14-15 age group, Logan McAllister of Oklahoma City prevailed 5 and 3 over Jun Kim of Edmond. Taylor Dobson of Broken Arrow won the girls championship with a 3 and 2 victory over Grace Shin of Tulsa.

Eckroat, who had to erase deficits in all but one of his four matches, plans to play in several events on the American Junior Golf Association tour this summer as well as trying to qualify for both the U.S. Junior Boys Amateur and the U.S. Amateur.

Oklahoma Golf Association
Junior Boys & Girls Championship
June 1-4, 2015
Kickingbird Golf Club
Match Play Results

Girls
Round — (Final)
Taylor Dobson, Broken Arrow, Okla.  (4) def. Grace Shin, Tulsa, Oklahoma  (2), 3 and 2

Boys 16-18
Round — (Semifinal)
Rhett Bechtel, Edmond, Oklahoma  (4) def. McCain Schellhardt, Edmond, Oklahoma  (1), 2 up
Austin Eckroat, Edmond, Okla.  (3) def. David Trimble, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  (2), 2 and 1

Round — (Final)
Austin Eckroat, Edmond, Okla.  (3) def. Rhett Bechtel, Edmond, Oklahoma  (4), 3 and 1

Boys 14-15
Round — (Semifinal)
Jun Kim, Edmond, Okla.  (8) def. Nick O’Donnell, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma   (5), 5 and 4
Logan McAllister, Oklahoma City, Okla.  (2) def. Connor Wilson, Edmond, Okla.  (11), 2 and 1

Round — (Final)
Logan McAllister, Oklahoma City, Okla.  (2) def. Jun Kim, Edmond, Okla.  (8), 5 and 3

 

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Ken MacLeod

Ken MacLeod

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