Patrick Kelly, the English under 18 champion, pulled off a major victory across the Atlantic when he won the annual post-Christmas Junior Orange Bowl International Championship in Florida despite battling with conjunctivitis and nosebleeds.
The 18 year old from the Boston West club in Lincolnshire not only beat a high class international field but he did it by 13 strokes after returning four sub-70 rounds over the Biltmore Course.
Kelly set a hot pace from the start with an opening six-under-par 65 to lead by two shots, then added 68 to see his advantage cut to one at halfway from California’s Corey Pereira.
However, while his main rivals slipped back, a third round 66 for 199, 14 under par, saw Kelly extend his lead to seven strokes over Jamie Lopez-Rivarola from Argentina.
After spending three hours in hospital with conjunctivitis and nosebleeds, Kelly wasn’t sure he would be able to see well enough to continue; but when he opened his third round with three consecutive birdies he put his blurry eyesight out of mind.
“I’ve sort of got used to it and new eye drops have helped. I could have made at least three more birdies over the next stretch but instead I made my first bogey at the 12th and another at the 14th, both from poor bunker shots. Fortunately I was able to get one back with a birdie at the final hole.
“This course really requires a lot of shot positioning and I’m learning that as I go,” he added. “Fortunately, from the start I’ve had great pace on these greens, which are really slick.”
With the finishing line in sight, Kelly was in no mood to relax his grip. Even when Pereira holed out from a greenside bunker at the sixth to get within five, Kelly responded with a birdie of his own at the next, one of his many fine long irons of the tournament, hurled through a 25mph crosswind, to within six feet of the hole.
Just to emphasise his triumphant week, Kelly concluded his final round with a birdie on the 17th and a chip- in eagle-three at the final hole for a closing 66 and 265, 19 under par, while Lopez-Rivarola could only finish with 72 for the runner-up spot on 278 and Pereira 71 for 279.
“It’s a thrill and an honour to win this famous event,” Kelly said. “and I’m delighted.”
The victory capped a highly successful 2012 for Kelly, who won the English under 18 Championship for the Carris Trophy at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal, Kent, last July when he beat Bobby Keeble from Essex in a sudden death playoff.
A boy international since 2011, he also won the Fairhaven Trophy and was unbeaten in his six games in helping England win the Boys Home Internationals in Ireland. He eventually finished second on the 2012 Titleist FootJoy England Golf Boys Order of Merit.
Leading final scores:
265 P Kelly (Eng) 65 68 66 66
278 J Lopez-Rivarola (Arg) 69 67 70 72
279 C Pereira (USA) 68 66 74 71
280 J Montano (Bol) 68 69 75 68
281 M Gradecki (Pol) 70 74 67 70
Kelly is pictured left, receiving his trophy.