Elliott vaults to sixth in Central Willamette Junior
Buoyed by a stellar outing on day two in the Central Willamette Junior Championship, Scappoose High's Chase Elliott tied for sixth in the Boys Open division for ages 14-18.
After shooting a 5-over-par 76 on the first day at Willamette Valley Country Club, Elliott came back with a par 71 at Arrowhead Golf Club, recovering from a tough front nine.
"I was pretty happy," Elliott said of his overall performance in the July 8-9 event. "It was decent. Some of the stuff that I've been working on was starting to click, which was nice, but there's definitely still a lot to improve on."
Elliott wound up six strokes behind the winner, Jesuit High's Johnny Ward, who lives in Lake Oswego and shot 73-68—141. Danny Hext, of Beaverton, was second with a 74-70—144.
Elliott finished the first day satisfied with his performance. The soon-to-be Indians senior had success with his irons but struggled off the tee with his driver.
"Round one I was hitting the ball pretty good," Elliott said. "I was getting my driver kind of crooked, and I was having to punch out, which cost me. But I didn't hit the ball too bad. I wasn't that disappointed with the 76."
Round two was a different story. His iron play wasn't quite as sharp, but quality putting kept him in the hunt.
"I played good," Elliot said. "I played really well on that day, but I definitely should have broken par."
"It was kind of the opposite I guess," Elliott said, comparing his first and second rounds. "I was hitting my irons decent, not as well as the first round, but I was just putting super well, which saved me a lot of strokes."
Putting has been a point of emphasis for Elliott in his summer junior tournaments sponsored by the Oregon Golf Association. Three-putt greens plagued him earlier this summer, but it all came together on day two at Arrowhead. Elliott went 3-under on the back nine, with birdies on Nos. 10, 13 and 14 with putts of five feet, 15 feet and 25 feet, respectively.
"I was getting closer to the pins, which helped a lot," Elliott said. "I was leaving myself easier putts than in the previous tournaments."
His best putt of the day came on No. 2 when he sank a 40-foot birdie putt.
"I had a horrible shot onto the green," Elliott said. "I was probably 40 feet away, and I made that putt so that was pretty good."
His course management skills enabled him to stay solid. He works at not speeding up on the course and on avoiding mistakes such as three-putts and risky shots.
"It's just not doing stupid stuff," Elliott said. "Like, if you get behind a tree, you don't try to hit to the green and make an impossible shot. Just punch it out, take your bogey or whatever it is, and just don't do anything really stupid like that."
The transition from Willamette to Arrowhead obviously didn't faze him.
"It's not that tough, especially considering that I'm playing new courses anyway," Elliott said. "I just enjoy playing new courses."
The courses were quite different, he said. WVCC was tighter and had lots of trees to navigate, like the courses he had played the previous two weeks, while Arrowhead was a lot more open.
The openness of Arrowhead empowered him to use his driver a lot more, even if the tee shots didn't always go according to plan.
"I just got more confident with it," Elliott said about his driving. "I still wasn't hitting it that well, which kind of hurt me, but it was a little more open, and some of the holes were longer, so I was forced to use a driver."
Right now, courses like Willamette better suit his game, since Elliott has struggled to get the distance he wants off the tee.
"I feel like a narrower, shorter course better suits my game, at least right now," he said. "At least right now I'm not hitting it that far, but I can get a ball in play with a 2-iron or a 3-wood. I feel like most players are just going to try to smash driver, and they're not as consistent."
Elevating his game off the tee box is the next step for Elliott. Even though Arrowhead is the only golf course he's played this summer open enough to allow him to use a driver off the tee, he still wants to improve his distance to give himself that advantage.
"I would say distance off the tees right now is kind of suffering," Elliott said.
Elliott said can hit his driver an average of around 250 to 260 yards. Making adjustments to get that average up to around 275 will benefit him for upcoming tournaments.
"Developing a faster swing speed is important, and then making better contact with the ball," Elliott said about the necessary changes. "I'm hitting the ball so poorly with the driver, it's not really consistent in the right spot that is required to hit that kind of distance."
Better distance off the tee goes hand in hand with his other goal; taking advantage of par-5s. He hasn't experienced much success with them this summer and wants to improve his scores.
"Every time I see a par-5, I'm thinking birdie, but I just haven't been able to do that," Elliott said. "I'm trying to attack those holes better."
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