With one swing, Zane Thomas ended whatever drama was left in the Las Vegas Junior Open golf tournament Thursday.
Thomas played a strong back nine in the final round at Anthem Country Club, highlighted by an eagle at the par-4 No. 13, to post a 4-under-par 68 and win by five shots over J.J. Holen. Finishing six shots back with a three-day total of 6-under 210 was Tad Darland.
“I had finished strong (Wednesday), and I just wanted to take that momentum and carry it over,” said Thomas, who became the third straight player from Southern Nevada to win the boys division. “I knew it was going to be tough. There were a lot of college coaches watching, and hopefully the exposure will help me.”
Thomas, who will be a junior at Arbor View in the fall, was locked in a head-to-head battle with Coronado’s Darland heading into the 13th hole. When Thomas drove his tee shot into the right rough, it appeared the two-shot lead he held over Darland might disappear.
Instead, Thomas hit his pitching wedge from 121 yards out, sending the ball toward the green. It hit on one bounce 5 feet away and then banked off the flagstick and into the cup for an eagle.
“I put a good swing on it, and I heard it hit the flagstick,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t see from where I was whether or not it went in, but I heard everyone up on the green yelling and cheering. It was a great shot, but I knew the tournament wasn’t over. I still had to keep playing.”
The two-shot swing put Thomas up by four with five holes remaining, and the margin increased to five when Thomas birdied the par-3 14th.
With Darland struggling with his putter, the outcome no longer was in doubt. Holen passed Darland in the latter stages but was too far back to catch Thomas, who is 2-for-2 in American Junior Golf Association tournaments.
“It’s nice to have the trophy stay in Vegas,” Thomas said. “I knew I had the ability to play well. But to do it on the big stage, it definitely changes things for me as far as my future.”
In the girls division, Devon Brown finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th for a final-round 1-under 71 and three-day total of 2-over 218 to beat 14-year-old Shannon Aubert by four shots. Green Valley’s Jenny Hahn finished third after Thursday’s even-par 72 and a 224 total.
“I think my age and experience helped me a lot,” said Brown, 18, who will be a freshman at Northwestern this fall and picked up her first AJGA win. “I didn’t get nervous, and I just tried to play smart at the end. It felt a lot like match play since we were the only two still in contention.”
Aubert, who had a roller-coaster tournament, had a final-round 2-over 74. She was the first-round leader after firing a 4-under 68 Tuesday. But, in Wednesday’s windy conditions, she struggled to an 80.