August 2, 2013 11:20:46 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Konrad Vernon showed this week his putter can be an effective equalizer.
Even though the Columbus High School senior was effective with his drives off the tee, his putter proved to be the difference Tuesday and Wednesday in his victory at the North Mississippi Coca-Cola Junior Tour event at the Ole Miss Golf Course in Oxford. Vernon drained a 20-foot putt for birdie Tuesday and followed that up with a 30-foot putt on No. 16 Wednesday to earn his first victory on the tour. The second long-distance putt helped him increase his lead on Jacob Dixon, of Baldwyn, and win the tour championship of the 16- to 18-year-old age division going away.
"When I made that long putt I knew I had one and just had to par out," said Vernon, who took second to Dixon in two other Coca-Cola events this year. He placed second to Blake Henley, who took third Wednesday, in the other event. "It has been pretty close between us three all year, but I wasn't playing like I should have been."
Vernon said he had played Ole Miss Golf Course about a month earlier, so he was familiar with the par-72 layout. He said he made a few mistakes and definitely could have done better Tuesday after shooting a 78. The 30-foot putt helped cap a round of 79. Dixon, who led by one shot entering the final round, shot an 85 Wednesday.
"A few of my shots were just short of the green and landed in bunkers," said Vernon, whose 20-footer was his only birdie Tuesday. He had two birdies, including one on a par-3, Wednesday.
Vernon considers putting the strength of his game. He said he had one three-putt for the tournament, and his effectiveness helped "save" him, even though he said his drives placed him about 10 feet from the hole on most shots.
"I knew which way the greens were going to break, and I was confident I could make that putt on No. 16 to help seal the win," Vernon said.
Vernon, who used to play golf at Heritage Academy, hopes to play golf in college. He felt he handled the pressure of playing catch-up -- early in the second round he trailed by three shots -- and competing in the title match well. He hopes it will give him momentum leading up to his final season of prep golf.
"I was just taking shot by shot and trying to play my game and not worry about what (Dixon did)," Vernon said. "I think the victory will help me. I am going to keep practicing and try to get better."
West Point's Chen Trolio shot a 41 and a 40 to win the boys 10-11 age group.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.