oIn his latest successful golf tournament, and there have been many in recent weeks, Kelly Chinn did something different, winning in dramatic final-round comeback fashion.
With birdies on six of his last seven holes of the final 18, the Langley High School senior won the American Junior Golf Association’s Ping Invitational in Oklahoma with a 54-hole score of 5-under 70-70-71–211. Chinn won by three strokes over Gordon Sargent of Birmingham, Ala.
Chinn entered the final round with a four-stroke lead. He struggled on the front nine and fell behind by two strokes through 11 holes. That’s when he got hot. Starting by making a 12-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole, that ignited a run of six birdies over his last seven holes, with a bogey on 16. Chinn chipped in for birdie from 25 feet on 17, then closed with a two-footer on the par-5 final hole.
“After the 11th hole, I told myself I needed to do something because Gordan was not making mistakes, so I had to make a run,” Chinn said.
At that point, Chinn became more aggressive off the tee, getting himself in position to shoot at the pins. That enabled him to get approach shots close and make the putts, or the chip, for birdies.
“When I get aggressive, I try to set that up with my tee shots. My putting doesn’t change,” Chinn said. “My driving and putting were huge at the end.”
The tournament capped a long stretch of spring, summer and fall competition for Chinn, which included three victories and many other top finishes, including making the cut into the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur, losing to the eventual champion. He did well in those tournaments with strong starts, that continued through the competition. Chinn’s poor front nine at the Ping event was uncharacteristic of his recent stretch of play.
“My front nine was brutal and the final round was definitely a grind. But it’s nice to finish with a win,” Chinn said. “It will be nice to get a mental break.”
In all, Chinn’s final round at Ping included seven birdies in his final 10 holes, including four in a row from 12 to 15.
On the 13th, he made a 3-foot putt for birdie, sank a 12-footer on 14 and an uphill 25-footer on the 15th, a par 3.
Next for Chinn is a six-week break until the Rolex Tournament of Champions 72-hole event the week of Thanksgiving at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Chinn is the defending champion of the high-school-age event.