published Friday, June 6th, 2014

Drama evaporates in WindStone AJGA event

Kendall Griffin watches her approach shot to the No. 14  green in final-round action of the Ringgold Telephone Company Junior Classic Thursday.
Kendall Griffin watches her approach shot to the No. 14 green in final-round action of the Ringgold Telephone Company Junior Classic Thursday.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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    Noah Goodwin watches his approach shot to the No. 16 green in final-round action of the Ringgold Telephone Company Junior Classic Thursday.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
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RINGGOLD, Ga. — The drama disappeared.

Kendall Griffin approached the final hole of the Ringgold Telephone Company Junior Classic with a five-shot lead Thursday. She won the girls' division by five strokes over fellow Floridian Morgan Baxendale.

About 20 minutes later, Noah Goodwin of Corinth, Texas, struck his tee shot on the final hole, knowing he owned a four-stroke lead in the boys' division. He took a very conservative approach to No. 18 at WindStone Golf Club and still set a tournament record at 13-under-par 200.

"I joked with Mom yesterday that unless I had a four-stroke lead on the last hole that I'd be nervous," said Griffin, who won with a 211 for the tournament. "Even though I was up by five, I was still a little nervous because 18 is a hard hole and anything can happen."

All that happened is that she added to her trophy collection. Griffin has a picture of an AJGA trophy posted in her room back in Sebring, Fla. She'll be able to add a real trophy upon arrival back home.

"But I'm not taking that picture down," said Griffin, who won an AJGA event in only her third attempt. "This feels really good and I"m happy to have won an AJGA event."

Baxendale couldn't put any pressure on her friend and challenge for the lead. A double-bogey on No. 7 dropped Baxendale, the first-round leader, four shots behind Griffin. She remained three strokes behind for the rest of the 54-hole tournament.

"Kendall didn't mess up," said Baxendale, who didn't get a chance to douse her friend with water before the awards ceremony. "I had to make birdies to beat her today, and I couldn't get anything to fall."

Goodwin made his putts when it counted, and he defeated Michael Sanders of Davidson, N.C., by three and Trent Phillips of Inman, S.C., by four.

Goodwin, who started the day tied at 10 under with Sanders, opened with eight straight pars. Then back-to-back birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 gave him a four-stroke lead over Sanders and Phillips.

All three rising freshmen -- playing the course at about 6,100 yards as a par-71 -- birdied No. 14. How the golfers played the next two holes determined the tournament even though Goodwin had a three-shot lead standing on the teeing ground of the par-5 15th hole.

Sanders rolled in an eagle putt from about 40 feet away and gave a fist-pump. Phillips made a birdie and Goodwin a par.

"All of a sudden I was feeling it," Sanders said. "I was 3 under in two holes and 4 under in four holes.

"I was back in it."

They were all in the fairway on No. 15 with Goodwin at 13 under, Sanders at 12 under and Phillips at 11 under.

Then Sanders made a mistake. His approach over a small pond with a wedge from about 90 yards failed to clear the water. He walked away with a double-bogey and Goodwin walked away with a little breathing room.

Goodwin added to his lead with a birdie on the par-5 17th and closed with a conservative bogey.

"I chipped in on 13 and I made two more birdies," said Goodwin, who drove 12 hours from his home to play in this tournament. "But when Michael got within one shot, that was a little nerve-racking."

He had no nerves on his final hole, and he'll celebrate the victory in Nashville.

"We're going to CMA Music Fest," the Texan said. "We're going to listen to a little country music."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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