Jeffrey Joan’s three most admired players, Adam Scott, Tiger Woods and Cameron Smith, combined to win four Players Championships at Players Stadium at TPC Sawgrass.
Labor Day weekend is a different time of the year and the rookie tournament is definitely on a different level.
But 18-year-old Gowan, of Bexley, Australia, was thrilled to close 64 on Sunday to break the championship record and win the junior players with four shots over Jackson Quiffon at 16-under-200.
Perhaps there is the word “Junior” on the crystal bowl he obtained.
But Guan seemed happy to lift a trophy from what his golf champions had won — including Smith, who took over The Players six months earlier.
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“It’s really special,” he said after a tour of nine birds and one ghost in which seven of his birds came through a nine-hole stretch. “This is a PGA Tour and I am very proud of myself. I loved it. I wanted to win and I played well.”
Joan, who is ranked 37th in the US Golf Association’s Junior Rolex rankings, became the first Australian to win the junior title and the sixth international to win in the past nine years.
He broke the 10-under 206 championship record set by Khavish Varadan in 2016 when the event was held at Sawgrass Country Club for one year while renovations were being made at TPC Sawgrass.
Benjamin James last year and Travis Vick in 2018 shared the old 54-hole stadium record of 8-under-208.
Guan came one stroke shy of the 18-hole junior record of 63, set by Logan McAllister in 2018.
Guan started the last round with a tie for the lead with Koivun, who is fifth in the AJGA rankings. Guan took one shot through seven holes, then flew away with four consecutive sparrows from 8-11, all on tweezers 10 feet or less in height.
Playing partners Kwivon and Carson Kim were grinding hard. Quivon didn’t make a bogey after his first hole and shot a 68 and Kim (70) eagle number 2 and flew two consecutive holes in response to a bogey at number 10.
But after a 1 hour and 10 minute weather delay, the group returned to the par-3 thirteenth hole. Guan dropped his tee 4 feet off the hole and made a birdie, then made his way up to find a birdie at 14th.
Guan responded to his lone ghost that day at No. 15 with a 10-foot jumper at No. 16 and safe pars at No. 17 and 18.
“I felt like it might be over after he made these two birds after the rain was delayed,” Quefun said. “Then he made this ghost at the age of 15 and I had a birdie hit and I felt like if I could do it it would put some pressure on. But I missed, the next bird and I knew it was over. I played really well today, I did my best There. In the end it’s really hard to beat the 64″.
Quivon hit 64 in the second round to win part of the lead. But once Guan punched six out of seven holes, it was over, he noted. Koivun finished with a 20-foot flyby in 18th place to secure second place.
“I didn’t know what Jackson and Carson were shooting… I was busy focusing on my own game,” Guan said. “I can’t control what they do. As long as I play well, I am very happy with myself.”
Ethan Fang of Plano, Texas (68) finished third in the 11-under, and Kim hit the tee in the water in 17th for a double bogey and fell to fourth at 9-under.
Camden Smith of Ponte Vedra Beach (73) tied with 15 and 18 to tie for fifth at 5-lower. It’s the second-best First Coast resident score in Junior Players history, after a tie for third by Bud Cauley in the opening event, in 2007.
Smith also scored the lowest 54-hole score for a resident area in junior players. Cauley’s shot equal 216.
Guan will not attend a college in the United States. He will finish high school in Australia in November, but said he is considering running in professional golf, either with the Korn Ferry Tour qualification process or in Europe.
He will be returning to Australia to participate in the Junior Championships there and will return later this month to participate in the Junior Presidents Cup in Charlotte, NC
Whatever he decides, he has something that not many professionals have: the prize for winning on the pitch.
Connect with Garry Smits at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GSmitter