For the first time, La Cañada High’s Collin Morikawa competed in a Western Junior golf tournament.
It wound up being a historic first on two fronts for the Spartans boys’ golfer. The soon-to-be junior coasted to a five-stroke victory Friday after shooting in the 60s in all four rounds in the 96th edition of the oldest junior championship in the nation at the Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis.
Morikawa’s first national win was historically impressive, as his 13-under-par 271 was the lowest 72-hole score at a Western Junior tournament since Hunter Mahan carded a 266 in 1999, according to the Western Junior website.
It’s Morikawa’s first national victory. The closest he’d come before were two third-place finishes at American Junior Golf Assn. tournaments. He came in third in the 2012 AJGA Junior at Ruby Hills and Robinson Ranch.
“It’s got to be probably one of the top to come out with this win,” said Morikawa when asked where his performance ranked for him all time. “It’s such a big tournament. It’s just amazing for me.
“It’s a very strong field. It’s definitely the top win for me.”
With the lead and 18 holes to go, Morikawa didn’t show any nerves Friday. He opened with eight straight pars and then rattled off four consecutive birdies from the ninth through the 12th holes in his fourth round. He appropriately ended his week with a 25-foot birdie putt at 18.
Morikawa opened the tournament with a two-under 69 but was six shots off the leader and stuck in a five-way tie for fifth on the leader board Tuesday.
The reigning All-Area Boys’ Golfer of the Year bounced back with a four-under 67 that put him one shot off the leader and in a three-way, second-place tie Wednesday.
He overcame a double bogey after dropping into a water hazard on the fourth hole. He birdied No. 5 and then cashed in six more birdies in the round.
The key to the week was staying out of trouble and finishing strong, Morikawa said.
“There was some pretty thick rough around the greens and the fairways. If you missed the fairway it made it a lot tougher, so hitting the fairways really helped,” Morikawa said. “Of course, you have to make putts and that helped me through the four days.”
While the rest of the field cooled Thursday, Morikawa stayed hot with a bogey-free, five-birdie round to take a two-stroke lead atop the leader board with a three-under 68.
The Western Junior tournament was a nice start to what will be a busy summer for Morikawa.
Previously, he finished in a four-way tie for ninth at the AJGA FJ Invitational at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. with an eight-over 288 on June 17. He also took sixth at the TTC Series Invitational with an even 213 in the three-round tournament May 26.
Morikawa will resume action in the U.S. Junior Amateur Qualifier at Oceanside’s El Camino Country Club Monday.
“I’ll be playing every other week probably,” Morikawa said. “I can’t put a number on it right now.”