The final round of the 35th Junior PGA Championship presented by Under Armour was punctuated Thursday by a three-hole playoff that saw Cassy Isagawa of Wailuku, Hawaii, emerge as the girls' division champion, while Denny McCarthy of Burtonsville, Md., claimed the boys' division title by three strokes at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.
After rain washed out play on Tuesday and halted the action for more than an hour on Wednesday, the sun returned and drama reached a fever pitch in the Championship, which had been shortened to 54 holes.
Isagawa and Ginger Howard of Bradenton, Fla., each two strokes back of Kyle Roig of Puerto Rico heading into the final round, closed with matching scores of 3-under-par 69 to force the tie.
"It was stressful today and the playoff was no different," said Isagawa. "I didn't know how Ginger was doing most of the day and thought maybe I do have a chance to win this thing."
After both Isagawa and Howard parred the opening playoff hole (No. 18), Isagawa nearly claimed the title on No. 17, but lipped out for par.
"I was really nervous all three holes, I have never been that nervous in my whole life," said Howard. "When my putt lipped out on 17, I told myself it's OK, I have 18, I have played this hole enough this week."
On the third playoff hole, both players hit solid drives on the demanding par-4 18th and both then left their second shots right of the green in the thick rough. Howard, deeper in the rough and with a much tougher angle to the pin, chipped to 18 feet and missed her par putt. Isagawa pitched to five feet and sunk the putt for her first Junior PGA Championship title.
"Having the same putt three times in a row on 18, I should end up making it," said Isagawa.
Howard, who was competing in just her first Junior PGA Championship, was proud of how she played and was satisfied with her overall performance under the immense pressure.
"I have no regrets and I am really proud of myself," said Howard. "I came back from shooting a 76 the first day and almost won."
In the boys' division, McCarthy, who was three strokes back of second-round leader Oliver Schniederjans of Powder Springs, Ga., played a wild round of golf that did not produce a par until the eighth hole.
"I was seven shots back after the first round and I knew I was going to have to fire at pins these last two days to have any shot," said McCarthy, a University of Virginia commitment. "I went into attack mode, and that made for some great shots but also made for some bad shots."
Those shots were on full display at Sycamore Hills during the final round, as he recorded four birdies, an eagle and two bogeys on his first seven holes.
"The course really played tough and the pins were not easily accessible," said McCarthy. "When the wind picked Oliver [Schniederjans] struggled a bit and I caught fire a little. It felt good out there."
McCarthy took home the Jack Nicklaus Trophy and cruised to victory on the back nine, leading by as many as four strokes. Anthony Paolucci of Del Mar, Calif., the 2008 Junior PGA Champion, closed with a 68 to finish alone in second overall.
"It was a weird week for me out there, I was not as sharp as I could have been," said Paolucci. "But I kind of put it all together in the final round and hit some real solid shots."
Schniederjans struggled to a final-round 75 and finished in a tie for third with Wyndham Clark of Greenwood Village, Colo., four strokes back of McCarthy.
"I have learned a lot from my final rounds," said Schniederjans. "But I guess I have got to learn more."
Isagawa, Howard, McCarthy and Paolucci all earned berths on the 2010 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team, which will compete against Europe at Gleneagles in late September. The final 12-person roster is expected to be announced this weekend.
The course average in the boys' division for the final round was 74.25, the lowest of the Championship. The course average in the girls' division was 76.01, also the lowest of the Championship.
The 54-hole tournament featured a 36-hole cut to the low 35 boys and 35 girls, including ties, following Thursday's round. A total of 36 boys made the cut at 4-over-par 148 and 35 girls made the cut at 155.
This year's field included past winners of the Championship, PGA Junior Series event champions, PGA Section winners, many of Polo Golf and Golfweek's top-ranked players, and selected national junior tournament winners.
Golf Channel will present a one-hour highlight program of the 2010 Junior PGA Championship, with the first airing on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET.
About the Junior PGA Championship
Begun in 1976, the Junior PGA Championship has traditionally produced unforgettable golf performances and brings together the best junior golfers from around the country to compete for the Jack Nicklaus Trophy in the boys' division and the Patty Berg Trophy in the girls' division.
About The PGA of America
Since 1916, The PGA of America's mission has been twofold: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf.
By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, the Association enables PGA Professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion golf industry.
By creating and delivering dramatic world-class championships and exciting and enjoyable golf promotions that are viewed as the best of their class in the golf industry, The PGA of America elevates the public's interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere.
The PGA of America brand represents the very best in golf.