CLIFTON PARK – Saratoga Springs senior golfer Will Braxton made the most of his final high school golf event Saturday at Van Patten Golf Course — the Suburban Council boys tournament.
Braxton fired a career best 9-under par 63 and led the Blue Streaks to the team championship.
“Things went well,” Braxton said. “I hit the ball well off the tee, hit it well into the green, made the putts. Things clicked.”
Braxton had four birdies on the front nine of the Van Patten Willows [red] course, helping erase his lone bogey of the day on his second hole. He topped that with a five-birdie back nine on the Pines [white] course, carding a 32-31 for his 63.
And he may have been able to go lower.
“I actually played fairly conservatively on some holes,” Braxton said. “There are a lot of holes I actually laid back with a 4-iron because I trusted my wedge game and I figured I could get in less trouble doing that.”
Hole after hole, he played the windy, leaf-blanketed course with no intention of giving up his growing lead.
“It’s very easy to get to a point where you’re five-under par or something and just kind of take your foot off the gas and coast in,” Braxton said. “I’ve learned from past experiences that you have to do the opposite.
“When you’re playing well, you know you are going to hit some good shots and you have to push it as low as you can. I did that today.”
While Braxton led the way, Blue Streaks teammate Dean Kellen scored a one under-par round of 71 and Carter Sica added a 77 as the trio combined for 211 strokes to claim the team title.
Shenendehowa was second at 223 followed by Shaker at 227, Niskayuna at 228 and Bethlehem at 236.
Plainsmen junior Aidan Campbell had a front-row seat to Braxton’s performance, also playing in the first group and shooting a 1-under par 71.
“A couple times I was lost in how good he was playing,” Campbell said. “A bad shot was instead of being 5 feet from the pin, it was 15 feet for Will.”
Braxton’s prowess on Saturday could intimidate a playing partner — or inspire him.
“Keeping my head in it all while he’s playing out of his mind, it was really good for me,” Campbell said.
“I was still able to shoot under par. It was a bit shadowed out by Will’s 63, but it was still a super fun time playing with him and making birdies all the time.”
Campbell challenged himself, going for a 69 during the final holes.
“I was 2-under through 16, on the [17th hole] I tried to hit driver,” Campbell said. “It was a drivable par four. I pulled it a little left and my ball was right up against a tree and I had to hit a little backwards-type shot.
“It came out a lot cleaner than I thought, but I wasn’t mad about bogey from where I was in the trees.
I didn’t let that get to my head either, so then I just knew I had to make par on this hole [final hole] or birdie to shoot under par.”
A solid birdie on the 18th secured his sub-par round.
Niskayuna junior Patrick Daley delivered on his early game plan, entering the clubhouse with a two-over par 74, playing in the second group of the day.
“I was cold, it was windy, I didn’t know what to expect,” Daley said. “I knew Will [Braxton] was out there, so I know he’s pretty good.
“I didn’t expect a 63, but 74, I’m happy with it. I probably left two strokes out there, but [it was] a solid performance.”
The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated the fall combined class sectionals and state qualifier, but Braxton made the most of his final fall high school outing.
“I feel real good with where my game’s at, but I’m just so happy to just be out here,” he said as the first group. “The fact that we got to get this in was just an added bonus.
“States not happening is a bummer, but you never know. I’m just happy to be able to get out here today and hopefully win a team championship.”
Suburban Council championship
Saratoga 211, Shenendehowa 223, Shaker 227, Niskayuna 228, Bethlehem 236, CBA, 241, Guilderland 243, Ballston Spa 257, Averill Park 269, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 270.
Braxton, SAR, 63; Campbell, SHEN, 71; Kellen, SAR, 71; Murphy, SHAK, 71; Komp, SHEN, 72, Jenkins, SHAK, 73, Daley, NISK, 74; Lucey, BETH, 74; McClenon, NISK, 77, Desjardins, NISK, 77; Sica, SAR, 77.