High school golf: Timpview's C.J. Lee sweats out a win
CHAMPION FORCED TO WATCH AS COMPETITORS NEARLY CATCH HIM
LOGAN — C.J. Lee sat on a low brick wall with his teammates in the warm autumn air, hands in front of his face and eyes racing to keep up with the thoughts in his mind. Then he stood up, paced a few steps and sat back down.
After compromising his three-shot lead from Day One with a 74 on Thursday, the Timpview golfer could do nothing but watch, hope and wait for more than an hour at the Logan Golf and Country Club before finding out if he would become the 2012 4A Utah State golf champion.
"I was peeing my pants I guess," Lee joked, saying he wanted to look away when his best friend and Region 8 rival Kai Ruiz missed a par putt on the 17th hole. "I knew if he made that, I needed to go start warming up for a playoff."
When Ruiz made par on the 18th green with the final threesome, cheers of excitement and relief burst through the spectator area as Maple Mountain and Timpview teammates and fans celebrated together.
Ruiz, a sophomore from Maple Mountain, finished the second round with a 71 after shooting a 72 on Wednesday, good for a combined score of 143. It was one stroke too many to catch the Region 8 winner from Timpview and Ruiz had to settle for the silver medal after winning bronze the year before.
Maple Mountain head coach John Averett said it's refreshing to have Ruiz, a sophomore, for another two years.
"Kai, he's always, always so steady for us. I can just count on a good score from him," Averett said. "He works extremely hard in the summer."
Ruiz led the Golden Eagles to the team victory, shooting a 302-306 — 608, five strokes better than Bonneville in second place and seven better than Orem in third, but the individual race was the story of the day.
"I didn't know C.J.'s score until hole 18," Ruiz said, mentioning frustrations on the 17th hole. "The back nine was just different from the back nine from yesterday. I just made a mistake with my driver. That was it."
Lee said winning the state championship has been a goal of his since before the season started, but knew it wouldn't be an easy thing to cross off his handwritten checklist.
"Throughout the last two years, me and Kai have always, always been neck-to-neck," Lee said. "There was no given tournament. He would beat me sometimes, I would beat him."
On the seventh hole, the senior sliced his tee shot into the driving range and a foot out of bounds before hitting into the sand bunker, adding four strokes onto the scorecard he didn't need.
"Up to that point I wasn't really playing well. I think I hit one fairway the whole day," Lee said. "At this point I'm not pissed, but my lead is going to be jeopardized because I know Kai, Peyton (Hastings), Nick (Smith), they were all catching me, so I felt that triple bogey put me out of contention."
Lee birdied the 12th and 13th holes to put him back at 1-under-par for the tournament, but sank a birdie putt with trembling hands which eventually proved to be the tournament winner on the 17th hole.
Timpview head coach Jeff Ward fought back tears after the awards ceremony as he spoke of Lee's dedication to becoming a champion on and off the golf course.
"He's just a great kid," Ward said of his champion, who will graduate this spring. "It will be a big hole to fill, a huge hole."