L.A.'s Maruyama takes Western Junior golf title

Al Willman
The Detroit News
Three-time Mr. Golf winner Andrew Walker, left, and James Piot are both committed to Michigan State.

Royal Oak — The frontrunner heading into Thursday’s final two rounds, Sean Maruyama looked to be in rough shape after bogeying the par-5 first hole Thursday at the Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak.

He bounced back, though, to win the Western Junior Championship, shooting a 2-under 70, for a four-round total of 278.

“I made a mess of the first hole, so I was pretty nervous at that point,” Maruyama, a 16-year old junior from Los Angeles and UCLA commit, said. “I told myself to stay calm and just keep looking ahead.”

Maruyama said after a tough outing in North Carolina, where he shot a four-day total of 300, Thursday’s bad start wasn’t limited to the first hole. Maruyama didn’t find his rhythm until the back half of the front nine.

“It’s huge,” he said of the win. “I played horrible last week in North Carolina and I was like, ‘I hope I don’t do that (again). I hope my driver goes straight.’ I figured something out this week. In the end, it got a little iffy. But I made a good putt on 16 from about 12 feet and that pretty much gave me the confidence to say I was going to win.”

A popular golf adage is that it’s better to be lucky than good. He said that was the case on 15, a 366-yard par four.

“I got pretty lucky on a couple of the holes, like 15,” Maruyama said. “I snapped my 3-wood and I thought that was on the cart path or in the trees, but it was on the fairway.”

He would later par the hole.

Local links

Three golfers from Michigan made the cut of 59 participants on Thursday. James Piot (Canton, Detroit Catholic Central, Michigan State commit), Nick Bonema (Troy, U-D Jesuit, Loyola University-Chicago) and Andrew Walker (Battle Creek, Battle Creek Lakeview, Michigan State commit).

Eleven state golfers were in the original field of 154.

Piot was the top local finisher, in a three-way tie for 26th, shooting a four-day total of 292. He was in the hunt heading into the final round, and even after the first nine holes Thursday afternoon.

“I was thinking about winning this thing after my first two rounds,” Piot said. “After my first eight holes today I was definitely thinking I was in it, for sure. I tried to keep it together as best I could.”

Walker tied for 39th with a four-day total of 296, one stroke better than Bonema – who finished in a five-way tie for 41st.

Walker makes history

Walker also made history Wednesday night, being named the state’s Mr. Golf winner for the third consecutive year. It is the first three-peat in state history.

“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “I’m pretty honored to be able to get named Mr. Golf again, and to be able to go three years in a row. I’m very proud of myself for doing that.”

Al Willman is a freelance writer