NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Austin Zoller was in a car with his father 40 minutes before his tee time in the second round of the 23rd annual Charles Tilghman Junior Championship at the Surf Golf and Beach Club, debating whether to go to the course or go home.
He was leaning toward driving back to North Charleston.
Weakened by the flu, Zoller decided to head to the course and give it a go with the intention of finishing the round Sunday.
He accomplished more than that.
Zoller shot a 1-over 73 for a 2-under 142 total that earned him a one-shot win in the boys division over Austin Langdale of Townville and Wesley Simmons of Goldsboro, N.C., who closed with a 68. Johnson Holliday of Aynor tied for fourth at even-par 144.
“I’m still in like a little fog,” Zoller said. “I’m really shocked. Just the fact I finished was one thing, and now that I’m walking away with the trophy is crazy, honestly.”
Zoller shot a 3-under 33 on the back nine after eating something at the turn for his first bite of food in about 21 hours.
“I think the fact that I was just trying to get through the day made my expectations lower and that let me play a little better,” Zoller said. “I was a lot less tense because I was focused on just getting through the day. Just being able to finish, that was my goal.”
He managed to choke down a Gatorade before teeing off Sunday, hit about a dozen balls on the range and didn’t practice his putting. “I just walked on [the tee] and said, ‘Let’s see what I can do.’ ”
Zoller said he has never played golf as sick as he was Sunday. His front-nine 40 Sunday included a double bogey on the second hole and bogeys on the sixth and eighth holes. “The first five holes are pretty much a blur,” Zoller said. “After that I drank a few Powerades and started feeling a little bit better.”
Zoller’s father, Karl, a past winner on the Web.com Tour who caddied for his son this weekend, asked him how he was feeling in the fourth fairway. “He goes, ‘I don’t even know where I am,’” Karl Zoller said. “He was in a bad way. Today he was really sick.”
The 16-year-old junior at Ashley Ridge High walked off the course Friday after only four practice holes “because I pretty much passed out,” he said. He drank about nine or 10 bottles of water and Gatorade on Friday night and felt good enough to card a 3-under 69 Saturday.
He was unable to eat Saturday night and woke his father up at 1:30 to ask for a bucket to vomit into. Zack Zoller provided the trashcan from the hotel room bathroom, and Zoller “was up all through the night.”
Zoller said he was taking a handful of over-the-counter medications to combat his illness. “Anything that could help,” he said. “Ibuprofen has been the savior.”
He finished third in the 2012 S.C. state junior and recorded a few other top 10s in junior events this summer as he adjusted to a changing frame. Zoller has grown nearly 6 inches in the past six months, and also lost more than 50 pounds to about 160 pounds in that same time by cutting sugar from his diet. He recently reintroduced sugar into his diet when he feared he became too thin.
The left-hander’s win was primarily due to ball striking. In the opening-round 69, Zoller birdied three par-5s by reaching the greens in two shots and hit three approach shots inside 3 feet for birdies. His three birdie putts Sunday were all within 5 feet.
Holliday’s tie for fourth with a final-round 71 follows a tie for third two weeks ago in the George Holliday Memorial Junior at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club. A three-putt bogey on the 18th hole Sunday kept Holliday from tying for second at 143, and a birdie on the final hole would have gotten him into a playoff. It was his second three-putt bogey in his final five holes.
“It was there; I didn’t catch it,” Holliday said. “I was playing pretty well coming into this tournament so I was hoping I could make a few birdie putts and make a run for it.”
He birdied the first two holes Sunday to make the turn 2 under for the round, saved par after hitting his tee shot into the trees on 10, missed a short birdie putt on 11, bogeyed 12, birdied 13 with an 8-iron to 6 feet, bogeyed 14, and birdied the par-5 17th with a good wedge shot. He said he lipped out four birdie putts and a par putt in the first round.
“It’s just confidence and confidence with the putter, and knowing I can win,” said Holliday, who tees it up next in the 65th Donald Ross Junior in Pinehurst on Dec. 28-29. “It’s just knowing these guys aren’t that much better than I am, they’re actually the same as I am. Hopefully I can go out there next tournament and go after them.”
Moosa wins girls division
Madison Moosa of Charlotte, an eighth-grader who turned 15 on Dec. 2. won the girls division by seven strokes over Kelli Murphy of Elgin with a 5-under 68-71–139. “I’ve been working hard on my game, just trying to improve every tournament,” Moosa said. “I’ve needed a couple wins to get my game going.”
She won a Peggy Kirk Bell Tour Championship and another PKB Tour event earlier this year. She also won the Myrtle Beach Junior Shootout in April 2011 at Myrtle Beach National at 13.
Moosa has her own personal swing coach in Kathy Choi Rogers of Winston-Salem, N.C., who played at UCLA and was an assistant at Wake Forest. Rogers is raising a family and doesn’t work at a golf course or academy.
Moosa made 10 birdies and an eagle over the two rounds. She has been working extensively on her short game and in the gym to get stronger and add distance off the tee. She estimates she’s gained 30 yards off the tee in the past year.
“Coming down the stretch I knew I was close and was just trying to make good decisions,” Moosa said.
Alex Paoloni of Cary, N.C., aced the Surf Club’s 152-yard sixth hole with a 9-iron for his second ace and first in competition. The ball landed an inch to the right of a front-center pin, took a hop and spun back into the hole.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.