Chase Goff knew he only needed a two-putt par on the 18th hole, but would that really be the most appropriate way to finish a triumphant round of golf?
Instead, he drained a 45-foot birdie putt, carded a 3-under 68 at the U. S. Naval Academy Golf Course and qualified for the 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur on Monday, after waiting through a one hour, 45 minute weather delay.
Goff, an Annapolis resident and rising senior at Archbishop Spalding High School, put up the best score out of 87 golfers who played in the qualifying event. He and two other golfers now will advance from Annapolis to the Junior Amateur, a championship for male amateur golfers under the age of 19, the week of July 17 at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kansas. It is one of 13 amateur golf championships organized by the United States Golf Association.
South River High School's Joseph Gaulin shot an even-par 71 Monday to finish fourth and earn "alternate" status for the Junior Amateur. If another player withdraws from the Junior Amateur, Gaulin still could be invited.
The Naval Academy course hosted one of 58 Junior Amateur sectional qualifiers across the country. Most competitors were Maryland and Virginia natives, though some came to Annapolis from the Carolinas, Florida and Canada. Canadian Angelo Giantsopoulos, the qualifier's only foreign-born player, and Dylan Rotter of Potomac both shot 70 and earned the other two available spots.
Gaulin, the 2016 Capital Gazette Public School Golfer of the Year, entered the 17th hole 2- under par but made bogeys on the final two holes. Like Gaulin, Goff was two under through 16 — on pace to post the lowest score of the day — but that was when a thunderstorm hit the area.
Middle Atlantic Golf Association officials sounded the horn at 4:15 p.m. to suspend play as clouds grew darker, and the four remaining groups (including Goff's) made it inside just before the storm began. They restarted play at 6.
Both golfers described the rain delay as "nerve-wracking." Inside, Goff was able to see where he stood in relation to the golfers who had finished their rounds.
"Definitely hard to sit on that and keep it in the back of your mind," Goff said. "I was just thinking, 'Get two pars, and you got it.'"
When play resumed, Goff reached the greens in regulation on both remaining holes and, after making par on 17, sank his dramatically long birdie on 18.
Goff, who was an Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference All-Conference selection and a Capital Gazette Communications Private School All-County selection this spring, shot 35 on the front nine and 33 on the back and finished with five birdies and two bogeys. Gaulin also scored 35 on the front but put up a 36 on the back, totaling four birdies and four bogeys.
Goff and Gaulin are both 17, and for each of them it was the second year of attempting to qualify. Although one plays a public school schedule and the other plays at a private school, they became familiar with each other through competing in junior events as they grew up. Gaulin and his father, Mike, watched Goff play most of his final two holes.
Gaulin described his relationship with Goff as "friendly competition."
"Just thinking about his goal and my goal [to qualify], it sort of just equaled out," Gaulin said. "I'm happy for him that he won, I'd be happy for myself if I won."
Watching Goff medal at the qualifier made for a great belated Father's Day gift for his dad, Brian.
"I couldn't be more proud," Brian Goff said. "I'm happy for him, to see him accomplish what he set out to accomplish, and after all the time, effort, energy and sacrifice he put in."
Annapolis native David Borchard hit one of the shots of the day: a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th.
Borchard, a rising sophomore at Archbishop Spalding, said he struggled on the front nine but started feeling more confident on the back, particularly after sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th. His friend and Spalding golf teammate Scotty Sellars, in the role as Borchard's caddie, handed him his 7 iron as they stood on the elevated tee, 161-yards away from a green that slopes left to right.
"It was a pretty straight shot. It just started on the left side of the green," Borchard said. "Then it was towards the fringe and it just funneled down (to the hole)."
Borchard, 15, has played golf only since he was 11. This was his first hole-in-one.
"It just got me really hyped," he said.
"It really got the adrenaline going," Sellars added.
It was one of two holes-in-one Monday — Patrick Kelly of Erie, Pennsylvania carded one on the seventh hole, a 180-yard, par 3.
The ace also helped Borchard finish with a 78 after starting with a 42 on the first nine, so he met his personal goal of scoring below 80.
Other locals learn
Other Anne Arundel County residents played in the qualifier, as well, some of them calling the Naval Academy their "home course."
Dylan Wyatt of North County High School shot a 79. Patrick McKinney of Gambrills and DeMatha High School had an 82. Ronak Patel of Glen Burnie and Mount St. Joseph's High School scored an 88, and Annapolis resident Trevor Martinez of St. Mary's High School shot a 90.
Even though only three golfers advanced to the championship, many who played Monday, such as Borchard and Martinez, felt they were improving their game just by competing with fellow elite players.
"It helps me know what I have to do to win, just taking notes from what they do," Borchard said.
"It's good exposure to more competitive golf," Martinez said. "The more I play, the more I get used to it. Being in different situations (during a round) is good."