WESTFIELD CENTER â€” At 12 years old, Alexis Thompson is years away from getting a driverâ€™s license.
But the seventh-grader knew when to put the pedal to the medal on Saturday, winning the Westfield Junior PGA Championship over Kimberly Kim by one stroke. In doing so, Thompson became the youngest champion in the 32-year-old history of the event, breaking the record previously held by 13-year-old Aree Song (1999).
Heading into the 12th hole, Thompson trailed Kim â€” the reigning Womenâ€™s Amateur champion â€” by three shots before she went on a birdie binge to finish the tournament with a 1-under-par 283.
â€œI just tried to knock it close to the pin and if I didnâ€™t (do it) I just started all over again,â€ said Thompson, who joined boys champion Chris DeForest. â€œMy adrenaline keeps going when I get on a roll and you could see how much farther it goes off the tee. Any win is great, but this win is special
At 1-over through 11, Thompson stuffed a birdie on 12 to cut the gap to two. Birdies by Thompson on 13 and 15 brought the pair back to even, though Kim missed a 5-footer for bird on 15.
As it turns out, the most important hole turned out to be the par-3, 143-yard 16th hole.
Both contestants safely put their tee shots on the green with Kim putting her ball 30 feet below the hole and Thompson sticking hers pin high, 20 feet away.
Showing the poise of someone twice her age, Thompson, of Coral Springs, Fla., claimed the Patty Berg trophy by draining the birdie, while Kim three-putted the green to fall two strokes back with two holes remaining.
â€œI was thinking make it,â€ said Thompson, who won the Aldila Junior Classic earlier this year to become the second youngest woman to win an AJGA event. â€œThat was a big move right there.â€
Not that the last two holes werenâ€™t a little stressful for the youngest woman to play in the U.S. Open. She and Kim bogeyed 17 to set up a slick showing on 18.
Above the hole and off the green, Thompson ran it through to the other side but used a putter from the rough to shoot bogey, while Kim sunk a par to bring a roar from the gallery of 2,200. Kim had a chance to force a playoff, but missed a 32-footer.
â€œI enjoyed my time with good friends, especially Alexis,â€ Kim said. â€œShe really gained a lot of respect this week with her play here.â€
Respect was earned by DeForest from Day 1. Playing in his fifth Junior PGA Championship and his sixth competitive tournament at Westfield Group Country Clubâ€™s South Course, DeForest tied the lowest total score after the first and second round and broke the mark for the 54-hole total before cruising in to pick up his Jack Nicklaus trophy with a 10-under 274.
In doing so, he became the third boys champion at Westfield to go wire-to-wire and the first since Tyler Aldridge won with a 6-under in 2002.
â€œIt was a great feeling coming up 18,â€ said DeForest, who was playing in his last junior event. â€œIt took a lot of tries before I was finally mature enough to win it.â€
It meant even more to the Cottekill, N.Y., resident who was able to coast down the back stretch. He held off Mark Johnson by six, Luke Guthrie by five and the tandem of Jacob Burger and John Popeck by eight.
â€œThis tournament means a lot,â€ DeForest said. â€œThis time I finally felt prepared.â€
Lancasterâ€™s Allie White was the highest Ohio finisher at fifth (+5) and was followed by Westfield Centerâ€™s Parker Hewit (T-15, +5) and Hudson graduate John Hahn (T-19, +6).