Renato Paratore of Italy needed a birdie on the final hole to win the boys’ Junior Orange Bowl International Championship on Monday, and Brooke Henderson could have quadruple-bogeyed the final hole and still win the girls’ title.
The two players took different paths to their titles but ended up in the same place, holding their trophies at the awards ceremonies with huge smiles on their faces.
“This is great,” Paratore said.
Said Henderson: “It’s a big victory.”
Paratore, 17, played in the final boys’ group with Jorge Garcia of Venezuela and Dominic Foos of Germany, and all three were tied at 8-under-par as they went to the 18th tee, the final hole of the four-round tournament.
What was Paratore thinking?
“We all knew we were tied, and I thought it was going to be difficult to win,” Paratore said. “I was pretty sure it would take a birdie to win or even to force a playoff.”
All three players launched good drives on the par-5, 516-yard hole.
Paratore, 17, had 244 yards left to the pin and took out a 3-iron and powered it onto the green some 35 feet from the hole. Garcia and Foos both missed the green. Paratore two-putted for birdie, the last putt an 18-inch tap-in that he took his time with just to be safe. Garcia and Foos both needed three strokes from off the green to finish with pars and one stroke back.
Shortly after, Paratore was making and returning calls and texts from Italy.
“They told me everybody is very happy back home,” he said.
For the tournament, Paratore had rounds of 67-67-71-70 for a 9-under 275 total. Garcia made a strong run with a 3-under 68 in the final round, and Foos fashioned a 69 on Monday.
Henderson, 16, started her final round tied for the lead but quickly ran away from the field, sinking putt after putt.
When Henderson finished, she was asked how many strokes she won the tournament by.
“I don’t know,” she said with a laugh. “I guess I’m not a scoreboard watcher.”
For the record, she finished the event at 68-72-73-67 for a 4-under total 280, five shots better than Megan Khang of Rockland, Mass. (71-70-76-68—285).
“The putter felt really comfortable in my hand,” Henderson said of Monday’s round. “The putter was definitely the best club in my bag.”
The victory came in Henderson’s third Junior OB, with her previous best finish a third in her first appearance.
“I love playing international events,” Henderson said. “You recognize faces and you also make new friends. This has been a great day … a great tournament.”