Let the party begin. Henry Guan of Irving, Texas, knows how to celebrate in style.
He turned 12 on Tuesday and, by the way, closed out the 11-12 age division championship at the Press Thornton Future Masters with a seven-foot birdie putt on the 18th green.
That putt gave Guan a 2-under-par 68 in the final round and a 54-hole total of 5-under-par 205, good for a two-shot victory over Sahish Reddy of Duluth, Ga., and Tyler Mawhinney of Fleming Island, Fla.
“This is a dream come true,” Guan said at his trophy presentation. “It’s kind of like a (birthday) present.”
Guan started the final round two shots behind 36-hole leader Mateo Desmond of Pompano Beach, Fla., and one shot behind Mawhinney.
“I wasn’t feeling comfortable the first or second hole,” Guan said. “I had to make a good par save on No. 2.”
But he calmed down with consecutive birdies on Nos. 3 and 4. Mawhinney had a bogey on No. 4 and when Desmond bogeyed No. 5, Guan took the lead and never let it go.
“He played great,” Mawhinney said. “He made one bogey all day.”
The round was interrupted for about an hour by a storm while the leaders were on the back nine.
“After the rain delay I knew that these six, seven holes were probably the toughest ones I’d play,” Guan said. “The ball didn’t roll as far because of the rain. These three guys I played with, they hit it super far. That got me nervous, but I thought, ‘If you just par these holes you might be the champion.’”
Reddy, who played in the second-to-last group, struggled early. He put a ball in the water on No. 3 and another on No. 5 and fell to 3-over for his final round. One swing got him back in the tournament. He holed out a 48-degree wedge from 110 yards for eagle on No. 6.
“I had a couple more birdie opportunities on the front and couldn’t make them,” Reddy said. “Then I played pretty good on the back.”
He shot a 3-under 32 on the back nine and closed out a 2-under-par 68 final round with a nice birdie putt on No. 18.
In the final group, Mawhinney was a stroke behind after Guan’s lone bogey of the day on No. 15. They both parred the next two holes and knew where they stood — one shot apart — headed to 18.
“I hit probably one of the best drives of the day,” Mawhinney said of his 285-yard scorcher in the fairway. “I had 61 yards to the pin. I hit a little flip wedge and left it about 18 feet short.”
Guan said he was “very calm” on the first two shots. He drove into the fairway and hit a superb wedge from 120 yards to about seven feet. Then the nerves hit him.
“As soon as I got on the green, my heart stopped,” Guan said. “I was like, ‘If he makes his putt, I’ve got a putt to win it.’”
But Mawhinney’s birdie putt slid to the right. He tapped in for par.
“When he missed, I told myself all I need is two putts. Just lag it up there. It had the perfect speed and went right in the hole,” the champion said after he raised both arms in victory.
“My Dallas boys, Elijah Estonilo and Duff McKay, we might celebrate today,” the 12-year-old champion said. “There are some other Dallas boys here, but those are the two close ones.”
Had Guan, Reddy and Mawhinney not been as sharp, a number of competitors played well in the final round to pull into contention.
Nicholas Logis of Austin, Texas, shot a final-round 68 and finished tied with Tyler Watts (68) of Huntsville and Oliver Jackoniski (69) of Dunwoody, Ga., at 208.
Desmond, whose brother Jude Desmond, finished third in the 10-under age group, shot a 75 Tuesday and finished seventh.
Guan, whose mom, Lan Guan, and stepdad Joe Harris, were both in attendance, said his game was struggling earlier this year.
“A few months ago I was playing very bad, probably couldn’t even win a single, little tournament,” he said. “Now winning this one — it’s the biggest one so far — it means a lot.”