When St. Rose’s Tommy Burns capped his junior campaign with a victory at the NJSIAA Central/South Non-Public B sectional tournament, he was surprised to have emerged as the winner at Mountain View in Ewing.
And after Burns opened the current season by capturing the Wall Invitational at Shark River Golf Course on Monday, he indicated the result was “unexpected.”
Now it’s hard to imagine anything Burns achieves between now and the end of his high school career will take anyone by surprise.
After carding pars on his final five holes to finish with a 5-over-par 76, Burns took the title on the first hole of a playoff against Howell sophomore Dawson Jones.
Ocean senior Max Lerner was alone in third at 77, while Rumson-Fair Haven senior John Edler, who had a one-shot lead before making triple-bogey on the par-5 finishing hole, was fourth at 78.
Edler did lead the Bulldogs to the team title, combining with teammates Jack Luby (79), Perry Litwin (83) and Reid Bedell (84) for a total of 324, five shots clear of Wall.
Shaking off the competitive rust with a month of cold weather limiting everyone’s practice time, Burns was even par through his first eight holes before carding a double-bogey on No. 18, his ninth hole of the round.
He steadied himself after another double-bogey on the fourth hole, a short par-4, moved him to 5-over-par, and he held his position among the leaders with several nice par saves, including one from just off the front of the green on his final hole.
“It was all about the short game,” Burns said. “I got up-and-down a lot of times when I needed to. I made some nice putts, which I’ve been working on my putting a lot. When I can’t go on the course I’ve been coming here and putting on the practice green and stuff, so I’ve been working on that and it paid off today.”
Jones, who captured the Central/South Group IV crown a year ago, was a shot behind Edler, his playing partner, and even with Burns standing on the final tee. His third shot on the par 5 came up just short of the putting surface, but he chipped to within three feet to save par.
In the playoff, contested on the 389-yard ninth hole, Jones drove his ball into the trees down the left side, leaving himself with very little to work with and putting Burns in position to take the title.
“I’m pretty happy with it,” noted Jones. “I haven’t had much practice, it’s been pretty cold out. So not bad for the first tournament.”
After Rumson finished fourth at the Monmouth County Tournament and sixth at the Shore Conference Tournament a year ago, the Bulldogs appear to be returning with a deeper squad this season, with all five of their players finishing in the top 16 at Shark River.
“We have a nice feeder system with the country clubs in town,” said coach Brad Margolis. “We have a lot of kids interested. We had 35 kids come and try out, so we have a good base of kids who want to come out and play. And we have a lot of young players.”