Chuck Spears of Pineville held a one-stroke lead going into the final round of the Louisiana Golf Association Junior Amateur Championship on Friday.
By the time the round was over, Spears pushed that margin to five strokes to win the tournament. In the process, he accomplished things that former Louisiana Juniors champions and PGA majors winners like Hal Sutton and David Toms had not done.
Spears, who will be a senior at Pineville High School, set a scoring record for the 54-year-old tournament with a 12-under-par 204 and became the third back-to-back winner in tournament history.
The championship was contested over three days and 54 holes at BREC’s Beaver Creek course outside of Zachary. The course played to a par 72 at 6,750 yards.
Althouth Spears shot a 67 on Wednesday, a 71 on Thursday and a 66 on Friday, the course hadn’t been one of his favorites.
“I really don’t have a good history here,” he said. “I’d played on this course four times before and I usually played pretty bad, so to win here and shoot what I shot is really special.”
Spears used a hot start, a hot putter and a tap-in for eagle on the 475-yard, par five 11th to fire a 6-under 66. He parred in from there to complete a bogey-free round.
“I got off to a pretty good start. I birdied the first two holes and I had the putter rolling,” said Spears, who birdied four of thie first six holes.
“On No. 11, I hit a three-wood down the middle and had about 167 (yards left). I hit a little cut seven-iron to about a foot and tapped in.”
LGA executive director Carr McCalla said he was pleased with the number of entrants and the quality of play in the tournament.
Seventy golfers competed for the overall championship and another 34 were entered in age-group competition.
“Beaver Creek did a great job of hosting the tournament. We had a good, strong field and a lot of good play,” McCalla said. “Even though (Spears) won by five strokes, we had a number of guys that finished under par.
“I think it shows that junior golf in Louisiana is generally in good shape,” McCalla said, “and Chuck Spears is the kind of young man we want to represent us as our champion.”
McCalla also noted the emergence of younger golfers on the scene. Phillip Barbaree, 13, of Shreveport shot 213 for a fourth place finish and Blake Caldwell, 15, of Ponchatoula tied with Blake Traweek of Shreveport for fifth with a 214.
Spears, Taylor Billings of Kenner and Caldwell were in the final group Friday. Spears stood at 6-under 138 for a one-stroke lead over Billings, who was one stroke ahead of Caldwell.
Caldwell was playing for the first time in the overall division and he said playing with the veterans Spears and Billings affected his game.
“Nerves were a big factor,” Caldwell said. “I missed a lot of opportunities. I left a lot of putts short. I had two three-putts and when I missed, I missed in the wrong places.
“My best hole was number one when I went driver-eight iron. I was just trying to lag it up and it went in the hole for a birdie. But then Chuck (Spears) put it (his birdie putt) right in on top of me.”
Billings finished second with a 209 and Hayden Bigby of Bossier City had a 212 for third place.
Adam Galliano of Baton Rouge won the first flight and finished 17th overall. Other area finishers in the top 25 were Peyton McCulloch of Zachary (ninth), Ross Davis of Baton Rouge (tied for 10th), Drew Patin of Zachary (18th) and Blake Gautreaux of Prairieville (tied for 22nd).
Age-group play concluded on Thursday. Michael Sotile of Baton Rouge shot a 72 to win the 13-14 year-old division.
Trey Winstead of Baton Rouge finished second in the 10-12 division.
Cody Maxwell and Austin Gilbert, both of Denham Springs, finished second and third in the 15-17 division.