Just by her expression and words, Maria Torres was surprised when she won the Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship on Sunday.
“I can’t believe I just did that,” Torres said with a huge smile after claiming the girls’ title at Biltmore Golf Course in Coral Gables.
And Patrick Kelly was not so surprised when he won the boys’ title. Taking a seven-stroke lead into the final round and then adding to it tends to diminish any drama. Kelly finished the day with a chip-in eagle on No. 18 to walk away with a leave-everybody-in-the-dust triumph of 13 shots.
“I was pretty confident with a seven-shot lead to start with,” Kelly said. “I would have had to lose it by playing poorly.”
Torres, 18, of Puerto Rico, started Sunday one shot behind Megan Khang and just kept playing steady and hard — and it paid off. Going into the final hole, Torres, who has signed with the University of Florida, was tied with Nicole Morales of South Salem, N.Y. Morales bogeyed the final par-5 and Torres made par.
Torres shot a 3-over-par 74 Sunday, and Morales had a 2-over 73.
“I’m feeling great,” said Torres, who started golf at age 7, which is late for a top-flight junior. “I don’t have so many emotions, but this tournament is a big one. I am proud of myself.”
Also proud of Torres was her coach, Mariano Bartolome, who works out of Doral but flies to Puerto Rico to work with Torres intensively some six to eight times a year.
“She deserves this,” Bartolome said. “If younger kids want to have a role model, she would make a great one. She’s disciplined. She works hard. And she loves the game. You have to love this game to succeed at it.
“But more than anything, she’s a nice person.”
In the boys’ division, Kelly, 18, became the talk of the tournament.
Throughout the event, Kelly, from England, was sick with an array of maladies — conjunctivitis (pink eye), nose bleeds, a cold and an ear infection. One night he went to the emergency room, and on another night to an urgent care center. Much of the tournament his eyesight was impaired by the conjunctivitis.
Nevertheless, he could do no wrong on the course.
His four-round total of 19-under 265 is the second best in the history of the tournament, with Miami local James Vargas having the top score of 24-under. Whom did Kelly surpass to move into second place? That would be Tiger Woods, who posted a 16-under in 1991.
Told that he moved past Woods in the record book, Kelly said, “Hey, that’s pretty cool.”
The tournament of do-no-wrong for Kelly had a fitting ending.
With the title already well in hand, he put his second shot on the par-5 18th hole just in front of the green, about 33 yards from the pin. He pitched up and the ball rolled, rolled, rolled … and fell into the hole.
An eagle. And his first international junior championship.
“It was just a week where everything worked,” Kelly said. “This is the best I’ve ever played.”
Boys: 1. Patrick Kelly, England, 65-68-66-66—265 (-19); 2. Jamie Lopez-Rivarola, Argentina, 69-67-70-72—278 (-6); 3. Corey Pereira, Cameron Park, Calif., 68-66-74-71—279 (-5); 4. Jose Montano, Bolivia, 68-69-75-68— (-4); 5. Mateusz Gradecki, Poland, 70-74-67-70—281 (-3). Girls: 1. Maria Torres, Puerto Rico, 75-73-66-74—288 (+4); 2. Nicole Morales, South Salem, N.Y., 72-72-72-73—289 (+5); 3. Megan Khang, Rockland, Mass., 69-70-74-74—290 (+6); 4. (tie) Emily Pedersen, Denmark, 75-75-73-68—291 (+7); Laura Sojo, Colombia, 74-78-69-70—291 (+7); Linnea Strom, Sweden, 76-75-70-70—291 (+7).