CLEVELAND – Jaron Leasure spent the better part of Thursday afternoon trying to keep the wheels from coming off on his final round in the Tennessee Junior Amateur.
But with the tournament on the line on the last two holes, Leasure regrouped and found something extra.
The rising senior at Montgomery Bell Academy birdied Nos. 17 and 18 to hold off strong challenges from Steven Haremski and Lance Simpson, both of Knoxville, to win the state championship by one stroke at Cleveland Country Club.
Leasure finished the 54-hole event with an 8-under-par, 208 total.
“I had to dig deep there at the end, with Steven having such a great round and Lance playing well too,” Leasure said. “I knew I had to make something happen down the stretch. I was really happy to get those two putts to fall.”
Leasure capped his week with a 2-under, 70, but his final round was anything but smooth.
He was 3-under for the day and 9-under for the tournament after eight holes on Thursday, but he proceeded to play the next seven holes in 3-over-par, including four bogeys.
After his bogey on 15, he suddenly found himself in a three-way tie with Simpson and Haremski at 6-under.
“Holes nine through thirteen were filled with a few uncharacteristic errors,” Leasure explained. “A couple of poor shots off the tee left me out of position, and I had a couple of poor putts in that stretch.”
“When I was on 17 tee, I knew where I was. I was just kind of like, ‘You could be in a worse position.’ I had a chance to finish strong and do what I could. There was nothing I could do about what had happened before that so I had to put it behind me. “
Leasure hit to within 15 feet on the par-three, 17th and regained his putting form to make the birdie. Haremski parred the hole and Simpson bogeyed from the green-side bunker.
All three players birdied No. 18. Haremski put his in first, leaving Leasure needing to make another 15-footer to avoid a playoff.
“That was a very pressure situation,” Leasure added. “Steven hit a perfect putt, end over end. I knew pretty much as soon as he hit it that it was in and I had to hit mine.”
Leasure was the 2018 Tennessee Junior Golfer of the Year. He has committed to play at the University of Virginia following his high school career.
Haremski, who played his prep golf at Farragut High School and is headed to Middle Tennessee State University this fall, had the low round of the final day as he fired a 5-under, 67.
He finished in second, one stroke back of Leasure. Simpson, who is a rising junior at Farragut, was third at 6-under, 210.
Braedon Wear (Maryville) was the only other player in the field to finish under par for the tournament. He tallied a 3-under, 213, including a closing 70.
Three players tied for fifth at 3-over, 219 – Jackson Skeen (Jonesborough), Cooper Hayes (Strawberry Plains) and William Rieck (Franklin).
One stroke behind them was Sheldon McKnight (Ooltewah) and Cameron Tankersley (Dickson). Three players rounded out the top 10 at 5-over, 221 – Gavin Clements (Franklin), Foster Wood (Signal Mountain) and Evan Woosley-Reed (Shelbyville).
FOR COMPLETE RESULTS FROM THE 56TH ANNUAL TENNESSEE BOYS’ JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP AT CLEVELAND COUNTRY CLUB:https://www.golfgenius.com/pages/1854000