Jeong, Niemann emerge with titles

Juwon Jeung
Juwon Jeung

The two winners of the Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship on Tuesday had some things in common.

They were both nervous, although for distinctly different reasons.

“On the golf course, I was not nervous at all,” said Joaquin Niemann, 16, of Chile, who won the boys’ title at Biltmore Golf Club by two strokes over Carl Yuan of the U.S. It was after Niemann left the golf course that he became nervous as he had to give a winner’s speech before a throng of onlookers and dignitaries in front of the tournament scoreboard.

“Yes, out there talking to those people, I was real nervous,” admitted Niemann, who was consistent throughout the tournament with rounds of 67, 71, 72 and 67 for a 7-under total of 277.

Girls’ winner Juwon Jeong, 18, from Korea, remembered it was the end of the tournament that made her feel nervous. And she certainly had reason.

Jeong won on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff with Sweden’s Linnea Strom after they tied in regulation at 1-under 283.

The playoff, on the par-5 18th, provided some pretty classy golf. The first time Jeong and Strom played 18 in the playoff, both girls birdied. Back to the 18th tee box to try again. Instant replay. Both Jeong and Strom birdied it again. Time to get back in the cart and go back to the 18th tee again. This time Jeong won it, making a birdie to Strom’s par.

What did Jeong think when she finally had the title in hand?

“All I could think,” she said, “is that it finally had ended and I had won.”

Jeong admitted she was extremely familiar with No.18 by tournament’s end, and it is a hole she will not easily forget. She played it four times Tuesday, making birdie each time — three in the playoff and once at the end of regulation. She also birdied it two out of three times in the first three rounds of the tournament, meaning she made birdie on No.18 six out of seven times in the Junior OB.

There were other similarities between the two winners besides nerves. After winning, each of them called or texted their parents before even leaving the 18th green.

“I think I woke them up,” Jeong said with a smile, estimating the call arrived in Korea around 4:30 in the morning. “Actually, I know I woke them up. They said they were happy and that I did a good job.”

Niemann communicated by text to his parents in Santiago.

“They were happy and congratulated me,” he said.

Another similarity was in the outlook of the two winners.

“It was my best victory ever,” Jeong said unhesitatingly.

Niemann echoed, “This is great. I’ve never won anything this big.”

Then Niemann’s newfound enthusiasm really surfaced.

“Maybe someday I’ll make it to the PGA Tour,” he said. “Maybe I’ll get to play in a major. No, maybe I’ll win a major.”