PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA | Aurora’s Drew Anderson played big on a big stage, as he finished tied for 21st in a field of 14 & 15-year-old boys golfers from across the globe at the 2015 Optimist International Junior Golf Championships.
Anderson, who will begin his sophomore year Regis Jesuit High School in the fall, capped a three-day run of play Saturday with a 3-over-par 75 on the Champions Course at the PGA National Resort & Spa. His finish put him at plus-11 for the entire tournament and in a tie for 21st in an impressive group of 131 qualifiers from 33 states and 14 foreign countries.
With a round that included two birdies, 12 pars, three bogeys and a double bogey, Anderson shot one stroke higher in his second shot at the Champions Course than he had in his opening round, the 74 he shot on July 23. Anderson also played the Palmer Course on July 24 and after two birdies on the front nine made the turn at even par. A pair of double bogeys contributed to a score of plus-6 on the back nine and brought him in with a 6-over 78.
Needless to say, it was a unforgettable experience for Anderson.
“The experience overall was amazing,” Anderson told the Sentinel. “The golf course was beautiful and elegant. The players were very good players and from all over the world which made the experience that much grander.
“I was blessed to have been given the opportunity by the Optimist organization. They did such an amazing job and the overall experience they put on is priceless and I will be forever grateful.“
Anderson’s combined three-round total of a plus-11 227 put him in a six-way tie for 21st with golfers from California and Texas as well as some from Argentina, Colombia, Hong Kong and Puerto Rico.
The boys 14-15 field also included international golfers from Bermuda, Canada (British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec), Ecuador, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom and Venezuela, which gave Anderson the chance to meet plenty of new people.
“My favorite memories that I will take with me are all the new friends I made from the United States and from countries around the world and of course the ‘Bear Trap’,” Anderson said.
“My favorite memory of all however will be on the final day of competition when I was forced to make a decision whether or not to hit my ball out of the water. I ended up going into the water with only my shorts on to play the shot. That will stick with me for many years to come.”
In two trips through the Bear Trap — Holes 15, 16, and 17 on the Championship Course, a tribute to PGA legend Jack Nicklaus (The Bear), regarded as one of the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour — Anderson played well, recording birdies on the par-3 No. 15 in both rounds, playing the par-4 No. 16 at 1-over and making par on the par-3 No. 17 both times.
To qualify for the Optimist International tournament, Anderson shot a 72 at the Colorado-Wyoming District Optimist Junior Qualifier on June 18 at Boulder’s Flatirons Golf Course, finishing behind only Eaglecrest sophomore standout Davis Bryant, who carded a 69 as part of his outstanding summer.
Bryant wasn’t able to play in the Optimist tournament due to qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur as well as his selection to the Colorado team in the Junior America’s Cup.
The other Colorado Optimist participants in the boys 14-15 age group, Boulder’s Frederick Gluck, Lafayette’s Ethan Tartaglia and Centennial’s Cade Kilkenny, all missed the cut after the first two rounds. Gluck came the closest to moving on with Anderson as he shot a plus-17 for his opening two rounds.
The Optimist International Junior Golf Championships are contested in boys 10-11, 12-13, 14-15 and 16-18 and girls 10-12, 13-14 and 15-18 agree groups and included players who make it through qualifiers all across the United States.
Three golfers from Aurora high schools — Regis Jesuit grad Sydney Gillespie and junior-to-be Jaclyn Murray and Grandview senior-to-be Morgan Sahm — will play in the girls 15-18 tournament, which tees off July 28.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel