By MATT HARNESS
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (June 20, 2019) – If he felt nervous Thursday, Piercen Hunt, of Hartland, Wisconsin, didn’t show it.
After sleeping on the 36-hole lead, Hunt shot 72-70 over the final two rounds at Rich Harvest Farms to finish 10 under and win the 102nd Western Junior by seven strokes. The Arrowhead High School senior and University of Illinois commit called the victory the biggest of his career.
“To play against a field like this and walk away with a seven-shot win is a really good feeling,” Hunt said.
Hunt was the lone player to shoot par or better in each of the four rounds as the tournament produced a stroke average of 76.43.
“I felt like I was in control of my game but not necessarily the tournament because I can’t control what anyone else does,” he said. “It was a matter of me hitting fairways and greens and making a few putts. I’m thankful that’s what happened.”
Nobody truly threatened Hunt’s lead Thursday.
Scotty Kennon, of Bandon, Oregon, finished solo second at 3 under after shooting 68 in the final round. A highlight included chipping in for birdie at the par-4 17th from above the hazard line below the green.
“I had already missed in all the wrong spots and knew where I couldn’t hit it,” joked Kennon on shooting his best score of the tournament. “The misses I made were on the right side and the opportunities I had, I made them count.”
Kennon, who will be a junior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, earned an exemption into the 117th Western Amateur at Point O’ Woods in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The top three and ties all receive invitations to the tournament, which runs July 29-August 3.
“That’s pretty awesome,” said Kennon, whose brother Jackson is an Evans Scholar and freshman at University of Oregon. “I’m stoked.”
Yuki Moriyama, of Yokohama-shi Kanagawa, Japan, carded three eagles in the final round to shoot 67 and tie for the best single-round score of the tournament.
Simms Abney, of Madison, Mississippi; Connor Gaunt, of Cabot, Arkansas; and Dawson Ovard, of Frisco, Texas, all tied for fourth at even par.
Hunt set himself up for victory by shooting a bogey-free 67 in the second round to build a five-stroke lead.
After a 72 in the third round, he started his fourth round with six pars before recording an eagle at the par-5 seventh to turn at 1 under for the round and 9 under for the tournament. He dropped a stroke with a bogey at No. 12, but he bounced back with a birdie at the par-3 13th and another at No. 17 to get him to 10 under.
Hunt tapped in for par at the par-5 18th to clinch the win.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Hunt said. “This is something I will use as a big confidence-booster for the rest of my summer and rest of my career, hopefully.”