Davidson tops Wog for AZ Publinks title

Glendale teen-ager Kale Davidson edged Scottsdale’s Michael Wog by a single shot to win the Arizona Publinks Championship on Sunday, the first major of the season for the Arizona Golf Association.

Davidson capped his fast and furious finish that saw him go 5-under par on the last seven holes by saving par from five feet on the final hole at Ken McDonald Golf Course in Tempe. Wog, who had won this tournament in 2009, could not recover from a bad drive on the 18th that led to a bogey.

“It was pretty magical, to say the least,’’ said Davidson, an 18-year-old senior at Cactus High School who closed with a 1-under-par 70 for a winning aggregate of 5-under 208.

“When I made bogey at No. 10, which put me back to even par for the tournament (4-over for he day), I just tried to regroup. I knew with the weather being bad, it was a tough day to play for everybody. So I said to myself, ‘Just try to make a few birdies and get back in it.’ “

Davidson did better than that, as he holed a birdie putt from 30 feet at No. 12, made an eagle 2 from 110 yards out at No. 14, another birdie from one foot at No. 15, and yet another birdie at No. 17 from a mere 2 inches.

“When I holed the gap wedge at the 14th hole for the eagle, I said, ‘Oh, I’m back in it,’ “ Davidson said with a big smile. “Then I almost holed another wedge at the 17th from 130 yards out that (tied it up).

“But it was that last putt to get my par, that’s what won it. I guess it was a hectic but exciting way to end the day.’’

As Davidson mentioned, the weather played a key role in the final round, with winds, scattered showers and temperatures in the low 50s making for some interesting club selections and very cold hands. Those conditions were quite a turnaround from Friday’s opening round, which featured sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s, or even Saturday’s cooler conditions with wind and overcast skies.

But it wasn’t the inclement weather that bugged Wog, who closed with a 69. He was under the impression that he trailed Davidson by a stroke when they teed off at No. 18, when in fact they were tied.

“I was keeping his score and had him for a 37 on the front, when he actually shot 38,’’ noted Wog, who opened with a 72 but got back into the mix with a 68 on Saturday.

“But in the end, I just hit a bad drive at 18 – blocked it way right – and couldn’t recover. And Kale made a nice putt, a clutch putt, to win it.’’

Three shots off the pace in third place was another youngster, 16-year-old Christopher Petefish. The sophomore from Scottsdale Christian carded a 70 to end up 2-under. Another two shots back at even-par 213 was Tucson’s Derek Laporte.

Camron Howell, who was the leader after the opening round with a tournament-best 66, and who held a share of the lead with Davidson at 4-under going in the final 18 holes, ended up 1-over and in fifth place. The big hitter from Queen Creek, who was the AGA’s Player of the Year in 2011, had been attempting to win his first major.

“Same old story continues,’’ said Howell, who could do no better than 76 on the final day. “I missed every fairway (Sunday), and it didn’t matter if I hit driver, 3-wood or iron off the tee.’’

But Howell and the other leaders, as well as the AGA’s tournament manager, Alex Tsakiris, had nothing but praise for the condition of the Ken McDonald golf course.

“A lot of the guys were surprised the course played as tough as it did, and it just wasn’t because of the weather,’’ said Tsakiris, noting that only three players in the field broke par on one of the Valley’s older yet more interesting municipals.
“To make it a little more challenging, we added a tee, stretched the golf course to 6,900 yards, and the greens were great condition. Plus, the staff bent over backwards for us, so we could not have been happier about hosting our first major of the season here.’’

Of course, no one was happier than the champion, who was playing in only his second AGA event.

“This is my biggest win ever,’’ beamed Davidson, who was the runner-up at the Division II boys’ state high school championship last year and will play golf for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott this fall.
“In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I will be playing in the Arizona Stroke Play (April 12-15, TPC Scottsdale Champions Course), and plan to play in as many AGA tournaments as I can this year.’’

In the AZ Publink’s senior division, which was completed Saturday at Ken McDonald, Scottsdale’s Murphy Mitchell prevailed by three shots over Mesa’s Tom Preston. Mitchell posted rounds of 68-69 for a winning total of 7-under-par 137.