It was precision over power last Friday as Bradley Ledford beat Chris Miller 5 and 4 to win the boys’ 18-and-under division of the Junior Falls Cities golf tournament at Sun Valley.
Ledford, a senior-to-be at Christian Academy, relied on consistency and poise to counter the impressive distance of Miller in the 36-hole match play final.
“Whenever you play against someone that hits it that much farther and is such a great ball striker, the only way to approach it is to be accurate and hit it straight,” said Ledford.
Miller, a 16-year-old junior at Manual High, had the early momentum after winning the first two holes, but Ledford eventually closed the gap and was 1-up after the first 18.
Miller leveled the match at the 21st hole before Ledford pulled away, winning holes 22, 24, 25 and 27.
The match concluded when Miller conceded the 32nd hole to Ledford, who had only a one-foot putt to go 5-up with four holes to play.
Fortunate to win
“It’s a huge relief and I feel fortunate to have beaten him,” said Ledford. “Chris is a great guy and he’s probably beaten me more than I’ve beaten him this year.”
Ledford was the No. 4 seed after shooting a 70 in the qualifying round. He bested Graham Koch (1-up), Nathan Hincks (1-up) and Evan Embry (3 and 1) en route to the final.
“Coming in I knew I had a good chance and the qualifier really set it up for me,” said Ledford, who was playing in his third and final Junior Falls Cities. Already 18, he will be ineligible to defend his title next summer.
“Experience helped a lot,” he said. “A year ago I would’ve been way too worried about how it was going to end. This whole week I don’t think I was ever thinking about the outcome. I was taking it one shot at a time.”
Parker Page helps
This summer Ledford has been taking pointers from longtime friend and former Ballard star Parker Page, now a sophomore at Pepperdine.
“I play with him a lot and it’s been encouraging to learn from someone at the next level,” said Ledford. “I’m trying to feed off people that are ahead of me.”
Ledford, who splits his training between Persimmon Ridge and Different Strokes Golf Center in Middletown, explained that he has rededicated himself to the sport in the last year. “I’ve realized that maybe I haven’t worked as hard as I should have in the past, but now I’m playing every day and staying out late practicing. I want to take golf as far as I can.”
No. 2 seed Emily Tofaute overcame a stretch of poor play on the back-nine and sank an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole to nip No. 1 seed Grace Gupton 1-up in a tight match between rivals.
Tofaute, 17, posted an 80 in the qualifying round and defeated Katie Gathof (3 and 2) and Gabrielle Miller (8 and 6) to reach the 18-hole final against the sixteen-year-old Gupton.
Tofaute was 2-up at the turn before missing a short putt at the 11th hole, then knocking her drive into a hazard on the 12th to fall back to even.
Gupton, a junior at Ballard, then went 1-up when Tofaute put her drive in a water hazard on the 14th hole.
“After 14 I still thought I had time to square it up and win,” said Tofaute, who will be a senior at Sacred Heart.
After halving 15, Tofaute squared the match with a par at the 16th hole.
Tofaute and Gupton both parred 17 to set up the dramatic finish on the final hole.
After Gupton missed a long birdie putt, Tofaute calmly read the line on her 8-foot putt and addressed the ball.
“I was thinking, I haven’t hit a putt all day and I just want to get this in to win,” Tofaute said.
The ball traveled slightly downhill then up, moving a couple of inches left to right before disappearing into the cup.
“It was dead center,” said Tofaute.
Next up for Tofaute is the Kentucky Women’s Open July 26-27 at Standard Country Club.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at email@example.com.