NAPERVILLE, Ill. (June 23, 2022) – During the most critical moments of the 104th Western Junior Championship on Thursday, Eduardo Derbez Torres reminded himself to breathe.
It wasn’t always easy. The 16-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico, lost a four-stroke lead during the final round before executing a series of clutch shots on the closing holes to outlast Camden Smith, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, in a playoff at Naperville Country Club.
Derbez Torres had to make an 8-footer for par on the 72nd hole to force a playoff, then got up and down for birdie from the front bunker on 18 on the first extra hole to win the Milt Woodard Trophy.
“Really nervous,” Derbez Torres said, describing how he felt on the final holes. “I just tried to breathe two or three times and tried to relax.”
It looked like he might be able to when he took a four-shot lead after the morning round on Thursday. But his lead disappeared during the final round after he made triple bogey on the par-3 10th and a double on the par-4 16th.
Needing a par on 18 to force a playoff, Derbez Torres, the No. 79-ranked player in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, drove it into trouble and punched his approach into a bunker beyond the green. From there, he was able to splash his ball out and roll in a must-make putt.
Derbez Torres tied the Naperville course record with a 6-under 66 in the first round Tuesday, following that up with rounds of 71, 69 and 74 to finish at 8-under 280. He joins Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk as a Western Junior champion.
He is the first player from Mexico to win the oldest national junior tournament in the United States.
“I’m really happy, because this is an amazing tournament,” Derbez Torres said. “Good players win this tournament.”
Smith, who finished almost two hours before Derbez Torres, was an unlikely foe.
The 18-year-old Mississippi State verbal commit was eight shots back at the start of the final round but got hot early, making birdies on four of his first nine holes. He reached 9-under before hooking a 4-iron into the water on the 213-yard, par-3 17th. He made a 20-foot putt to salvage bogey, then watched his 8-foot birdie putt for the course record – and, as it turned out, the win – slide by on 18.
“I know I’m playing against the best competition in the country, so I knew I had to take it low,” he said. “I got it going and didn’t really think about it.”
Bryan Kim, of Brookeville, Maryland, finished third at 7-under. William Love, of Atlanta, Georgia, was fourth at 6-under. Six players – including Solomon Petrie, of Akron, Ohio, who also posted a final-round 66 – tied for fifth at 5-under. For the full leaderboard, click here.
Derbez Torres, Smith and Kim all earned exemptions into the Western Amateur at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park, Illinois, in early August. Thursday’s finish was the first playoff at the Western Junior since 2015, when Kevin Yu beat Carl Yuan in a one-hole playoff at Riverside Country Club.
For more information, visit www.thewesternjunior.com.
For the full leaderboard, click here.