Future Masters: Sandhu repeats as 11-12 champion

Last year, Sihan Sandhu held his champion’s trophy. Tuesday, he cradled it.

Sandhu erased any doubts about his 11-12 age division title a year ago – along with the tournament scoring record – by lapping the 11-12 field in the three-day Press Thornton Future Masters.

Sandhu fired a 4-under-par 66 in the final round to complete a record 14-under 196 total and an eight-shot victory over William Jennings of Greenville, S.C. Sandhu’s score smashed the 54-hole tournament record of 201 set by Joshua Martin in 2009.

What the final round lacked in drama – Sandhu’s second-round 63 game him a six-shot lead going into the final day – it made up for with precision golf. Sandhu never opened the door for his talented playing partners.

He birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 5 early, and added another birdie on No. 9 to turn at 31. At one point he led by 11 shots. On the back, he birdied No. 12 and his only bogey came after his ball hit something and kicked right – a bad break.

It’s not like his playing partners struggled. Jennings shot a 3-under 67 – including a birdie on No. 18 that broke a tie for second place with Matt Moloney of Vienna, Va., who also shot a 67.

Alex Long of Toronto, Ontario, shot a final-round 66 and vaulted into fourth place at 207. Thomas “Tip” Price of Greenville, S.C., shot a 70 and finished fifth at 1-over 211.

Rounding out the top 10 were Asher Joseph (212) of Melbourne, Fla., Frank Kennedy (212) of Crewe, England, Shawn Coultoff (213) of Winter Garden, Fla., Aksel Moe (214) of Richville, Minn., and Nicholas Gross (214) of Downington, Pa.

Dothan golfer Mason Crowder finished a fine week with a 74 for a 217 total and a tie for 19th.

Jennings said he learned a lot playing in the final group.

“It was a lot of fun to see where everyone was at,” he said. “The front nine didn’t go so well. The putts just weren’t falling. The back nine I drained a couple birdie putts.”

Moloney said he, too, had to fight through a tough start.

“I was 2-over after five holes,” he said. “I hit one good shot – a pitching wedge to three feet on No. 7 – and made the birdie putt. I made a 15-footer for birdie and No. 8 and that kind of kicked off the round. It was a good week. First time I put three rounds in the 60s together.”

Long rallied with a bogey-free 66. He started with birdies on the first two holes, added another on No. 5 and drained another birdie putt on No. 11.

“I feel good about today,” Long said. “Yesterday was a fight – I only hit nine greens. Today, I hit 16. It’s a good week overall.”

Sandhu led wire-to-wire, sharing the first-round lead after an opening 67 with Joseph. Sandhu’s father, Ruby Sandhu, said the victory a year ago was more of a surprise than going back-to-back.

“Last year we didn’t expect that he would do that well, because he’s young,” Ruby Sandhu said. “But he played really good last year and this year, you saw what he did.”

He said his son is the No. 1-ranked player in the world for his age group. He’s won multiple world junior championships and has won three events in Europe.

“I never thought I could go this low,” said Sandhu, adding he wasn’t any more nervous than usual at the start of the round. “My wedges the whole tournament were pretty good. That helped me a lot.”

So did his noticeable addition of distance from a year ago.

“I gained a few yards,” he said, a smile spreading across his face. “I was the bigger boy, not the little boy. That helped. Like, I hit into No. 6 with an 8-iron vs. a hybrid last year. That was a big difference.”

Another difference was playing all 54 holes of the tournament. Last year Sandhu was the 36-hole leader. He had lost his lead during the final round, but it was washed away by rain and he won the shortened tournament.

“It happens. It’s golf,” he said with a shrug. “A few times it’s happened to me.”

He said Tuesday’s feeling was better.

“Really winning the tournament,” the champion said.

His name is pronounced SEE-hawn San-DEW. There is a good chance you’ll hear it again.

Source: dothaneagle.com