By MATT HARNESS
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (June 24, 2021) – If Caleb Surratt, of Matthews, North Carolina, turns golf into a career, he might have a job for his dad.
With his dad Brent on the bag, Surratt went from nearly missing the cut to winning the 103rd Western Junior Championship and the Milt Woodard Trophy at Onwentsia Club. A rising senior at Union Academy Charter School in Monroe, North Carolina, Surratt shot a sizzling 65-67 over the final two rounds Thursday to finish at 3-under 277 on the par-70, 6,736-yard layout.
Playing in his first Western Junior, the 17-year-old Surratt, who is committed to Tennessee, was the lone player to break par for the tournament.
William Sides, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Yuze Zhang, of Windermere, Florida, tied for second at 1 over. Zhang’s 68 was the second-best score of the final round. He plans to play golf at Florida State this year, while Sides, who will be a senior in high school, is committed to Southern Methodist.
Matthew Troutman, of Louisville, Kentucky, rallied from opening-round 76 to finish fourth at 2 over. Three players tied for fifth at 3 over.
Things were looking bleak for Surratt midway through his second round Wednesday. At 6 over after 27 holes, he called on his dad to caddie for him. Surratt survived the 36-hole cut and played the last 45 holes in 9-under par. His 65 in the third round tied the lowest score of the week.
Brent Surratt’s role consisted of pushing the cart, cleaning clubs and acting as a sounding board for his son.
“I think he was playing timid and maybe a little scared,” Brent Surratt said. “He didn’t need me for advice. He likes to talk through his shots, and I think it helped him to have someone to make him feel better and more confident about his decisions.”
One such example was Caleb Surratt’s second shot into the par-4 eighth — his 35th hole Thursday — when he committed to his club selection. The result was a 6-iron from 193 yards to a few inches for a tap-in birdie. He punctuated the week on his final hole with a two-putt par from 45 feet that went up and over a slope.
“One of his issues has been getting over the hump and finishing off rounds,” Brent Surratt said. “He did that today. We’ll talk about that 6-iron for the next 10 years. It was awesome.”
That was one of 12 birdies Caleb Surratt carded over the final two rounds. Two of those came immediately after he made a double bogey.
“It felt good,” he said. “I’ve worked so hard on disconnecting from the result and focusing on the process. That showed today.”
Surratt, Sides and Zhang all earned exemptions into the Western Amateur at Glen View Club in Golf, Illinois, to be held July 26-31. Surratt joined Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk as a Western Junior champion.
“Once my dad started helping me, everything got better,” he said. “We grinded hard out there. The power of speaking positive and focusing on every shot goes a long way. It was all about taking as much stress off of me mentally as possible. I’ve always been a fighter, and I definitely was resilient this week.”
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