PGA Junior Series Championship Manager Mike Schanne, Jr., right, presents first-place honors to Daniel Martinez at Taconic Golf Club on Thursday.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Daniel Martinez was a wire-to-wire winner at the PGA Junior Series event at Taconic Golf Club this week.
But it was not easy.
Martinez, of Austin, Texas, gave away most of his five-stroke lead coming into Thursday's final round but rallied to win by a convincing seven stroke margin.
"I had to settle in," Martinez said after securing an exemption to this month's Junior PGA Championship in his home state.
"I made a huge putt on 10, probably a 15-foot curler for par from above the hole, which is not where you want to be. After that, I got into a little bit more of a rhythm. Everything after that felt a little easier."
The girls championship was won by Lois Kaye Go, a native of the Phillipines who lives in New Jersey. She carded plus-5 on Thursday to edge Virginia's Alex Wright who finished with the one-stroke deficit she brought into the day.
First-round leader Maya Walton — also of Austin — finished in third place, five strokes back of Kaye Go, after entering the third round tied for the lead.
Martinez bogeyed the fifth, seventh and eighth holes to make the turn 3-over for the day on Thursday. Meanwhile, Lake Placid, N.Y.'s, Arthur Griffin played even on the front nine to pull within two strokes of the lead.
But Griffin struggled to an eventual 14-over 45 to finish fifth overall while Martinez found his game.
"I birdied 13 from off the green, which actually had no business going in," he said. "It was probably a 30-footer downhill, left to right. And I drilled the pin. It probably would have gone off the green because it was probably another 15 feet.
"That one kind of settled me."
Martinez, a rising high school sophomore, said his game has risen to new heights after he started working with coach Chris O'Connell of Plano, Texas, north of Dallas.
Taconic is the farthest north Martinez' game has taken him to date, but he said he has an affinity for New England courses, citing the Yale Golf Course as another favorite.
"I've always loved coming up North because of the change of scenery and everything and the grasses," he said. "A lot of the courses up here are in really good shape, and I love playing on bentgrass on the greens."
Taconic head pro Josh Hillman credited Taconic superintendent Jim Easton with having the course in top condition for this week's first-ever event.
"The course really held up well to some really, really good international juniors," Hillman said, referring to the golfers who came from China, Mexico and Brazil. "I couldn't be happier with how the course played and how the course was set up."
Will this be the first of many such events?
"It's still year-to-year," Hillman said. "I think the club's very happy with the event, and I think the PGA Junior Series is really happy with the event. So, yeah, we'd love to see this event going forward, but it's up to the club."
Hillman has a selfish reason for wanting to see it continue.
"As the coach of the Williams College golf team, I love to see this here because it's just previewing a bunch of really great juniors coming to Taconic to play," he said.
One of those juniors, high school junior Sam Goldenring of Florham Park, N.J., is the brother of Williams rising senior Jake Goldenring, a captain on Hillman's varsity squad.
Sam Goldenring finished second on Thursday with a 2-over 73 for the day to go 14-over for the tourney.
The event also featured a boys 12-14 division which was competing for glory but not for an exemption to the national championship. That event was won by Delmar, N.Y.'s, Austin Fox, who was 12-over on Thursday but finished four strokes better than runner-up Phin Choukas of Hanover, N.H.
Back in the 15-18 boys division, locals Matthew Wiseman and Kyle Alvarez of Williamstown each improved as the week progressed but finished well back in the 52-player field.
Wiseman said he limited his mistakes on Thursday to card a 10-over 81 after posting a 91 and a 90 the first two days of the tourney.
"My short game was pretty good today, which helped," Wiseman said.
A regular at Taconic but a first-timer on the PGA Junior Series, Wiseman said his focus for the week was playing to his ability.
"I was just trying to play well, which I really didn't do the first two days," he said. "But I finished with a better round, which I'm happier with."