Composure is an essential attribute for golfers, one that usually culminates over time. While the players at the International Junior Masters tournament, ranging in age from 13 to 18, possess all of the physical skills of older players – with extra to spare – other parts of their game are still developing.
Jake Kreuz, an 18-year-old Canisius High School graduate from Amherst, used age and experience to his advantage Friday, persevering through a rough start to beat Etienne Papineau in the championship of the consolation ladder, 3 and 2.
Papineau, a 15-year-old from St. Jean sur Richeliue, Quebec showed his skill early, hitting his irons well and making putts to go three holes up after six. But while Kreuz stayed cool, Papineau got frustrated after hitting into a hazard two holes in a row and couldn't keep it together when the wheels started falling off, slamming his club back into his bag after miss-hit shots and yelling at himself in French.
"Once I won my first hole, his composure definitely switched," Kreuz said. "I've played in this tournament before. I saw him out there; he was getting frustrated with it. When he wasn't hitting it good, he would get very upset."
Kreuz jumped at the chance to come back in the match, sweeping holes 9-13 to go from 3-down to 2-up.
The 12th hole, a dangerous par 5, was the turning point in the match. With the score even after Papineau lost his ball on 11 that, after a consultation with a rules official, was assumed to have gone into the water, Kreuz returned the favor by hitting his tee shot hard to the right and out of bounds.
After taking a drop, Kreuz hit his third shot into a sand trap near the green while Papineau looked on from his tee shot on the fairway, but his approach sliced right and made solid contact with a tree before bouncing out of play. Kreuz would recover for bogey to take a lead he would never give up.
Kreuz shot well in the medal round but missed his shot at playing in the championship bracket when he lost in match play Wednesday afternoon. He came back from 3-down in the match to force a playoff, but took his tee shot way too far and couldn't recover.
He was so upset he went straight home and into bed without talking to anyone or looking to find out what time he played Thursday.
Luckily, he woke up at 6 a.m., only to realize his tee time for was set for 7:15.
He hurried into East Aurora Country Club and beat Doug Uhazie, 3 and 2, in the morning before taking out Josh Whalen, 4 and 3, in the afternoon to advance to Friday. He beat Luke Atack, 5 and 3, Friday morning.
He didn't get the opportunity to face friend James Blackwell in the championship, a competitor whom he frequently dueled with in Monsignor Martin play, but Kreuz was the first person down to congratulate Blackwell after he fell just short in the championship-flight final.
"We played high school matches all year and I thought it would be pretty cool to meet him in championship match, but that didn't end up happening," Kreuz, the MMAA champ, said. "I was upset I wasn't the one walking down the 18th fairway on the last day and the last match, but I'm glad it was him. He played some great golf."
Kreuz said he had some college offers in the North but decided to spend time working with a golf coach in Florida.