For all that he accomplished in the first two days of the American Junior Golf Association tournament at Centennial Golf Club, it was back to square one for Kevin Murphy on Thursday.
Yes, he'd built a comfortable lead in the first two rounds of the 54-hole event and parlayed that into an even more comfy, seven-shot victory.
Yes, record-setting goals were within reach for much of the final 18.
But, to fulfill one of his desires — win a coveted AJGA putter head cover — he had to have the best final-round score among the 57 boys who remained. The pair of 67s he'd already pocketed meant bupkis in that regard.
"I was thinking about that putter head cover," said the Rogue River 18-year-old. "It's always awesome to get the final-round low."
The head cover, a vibrant yellow accessory with AJGA emblems in more colors than you'll find in a bag of M&M's, is hard to miss.
"It's awesome," said Murphy. "I think I'll probably use it. It's a pretty good trophy."
Murphy racked up a few trophies Thursday, including the head cover for shooting a 3-under-par 69 and a commemorative flag from Centennial for his first career hole-in-one, accomplished three weeks earlier on No. 17.
He finished with a 203 score, well ahead of co-runners-up Ryan Grondlund and Patrick Kim, both of Pleasanton, Calif., and Corey Pereira, of Cameron Park, Calif. They had 6-under 210s.
Matt Hedges, of Ashland, fired a 74, his best round of the three days, and finished at 8-over 224.
In the Girls Division, Bethany Wu, of Diamond Bar, Calif., made a couple late birdies to pull away for her first AJGA victory in three years. She shot 69 for a three-day total of 204.
Simin Feng, of Orlando, Fla., and Ziyi Wang, of Beijing, China, were five strokes back.
Murphy didn't eclipse the tournament record of 17 under, set in the inaugural event two years ago by George Cunningham, or meet his pre-tourney goal of three consecutive days of at least 5 under.
Still, you couldn't squeegee the smile off his face following his first victory on the AJGA national circuit, on a course close to home and on one on which he regularly practices.
"It feels great," said Murphy, who will be a senior in high school. "It's hard to explain how good it feels to do it."
Murphy began the day with a three-shot lead over Kim and was four better than three others, including Pereira, who filled out the final threesome.
Murphy served immediate notice that he would not come back to the field, birdieing two of the first three holes.
"I was thinking, 'I can do this,'" he said, referring to shooting the 64 necessary to beat Cunningham's record. "I was kind of trying to really get myself to make aggressive shots, even though I didn't need to. That was kind of my strategy of staying in my own game."
A couple bogeys dropped him back to even, but a birdie on No. 7 and an eagle on No. 9 got him to thinking about going low again.
On the par-5 ninth, he hit a 3-wood 280 yards downwind to the back of the green, then drained the 20-foot putt.
"I knew I could get it back," he said. "I just kept trying to focus on my goal."
His opportunities would soon fade.
The par-5 11th figured to set up a birdie chance, but his chip came up short and he two-putted for par. Same at No. 13, a short par 4, where he was on the fringe with his drive but chipped short and again two-putted.
Pars were in order on the back nine until a birdie on the 16th kept alive his chance at another 67. A sand save requiring a 13-foot putt on the next hole helped, but a bogey on the 18th, when another chip came up well short, stonewalled the trifecta.
"Usually, the greens roll out, and it just wasn't doing that," Murphy said of his chip on 18. "In my head, I thought I hit the perfect shot, but it ends up way short.
"I ended up with bogey there, you know, but I played great. I'm happy with how I did. I hit a lot of good shots how I wanted to."
Now, he has a shot to climb in the AJGA national rankings and gain entry into invitational tournaments later this year or next spring.
Before that, however, is the U.S. Amateur qualifier July 30 at Juniper Golf Course in Redmond.
"That would be a good one to give myself a shot at playing in," said Murphy. "That'd be awesome. I feel like I've got a chance to make it, too."
Wu knows the feeling. The 15-year-old has already qualified for U.S. Women's Amateur next month in Cleveland.
She'll go in on a high, having claimed an AJGA event for the first time since 2009.
Wu had rounds of 67, 68 and 69.
"Each day got a little not-as-good," she said, "but they were still good."
She made birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 to expand her two-shot lead on Feng.
"It felt pretty good on the last hole teeing off and thinking, wow, a four-shot lead," said Wu. "On the back nine, the holes are much shorter than the front, so that was sort of easier."
BOYS TOP 10
1. Kevin Murphy, Rogue River, 67-67-69—203 -13
2. Ryan Gronlund, Pleasanton, Calif., 72-66-72—210 -6
2. Patrick Kim, Pleasanton, Calif., 68-69-73—210 -6
2. Corey Pereira, Cameron Park, Calif., 69-69-72—210 -6
5. Bakari Bolden, North Hollywood, Calif., 70-71-70—211 -5
5. Zane Thomas, Las Vegas, Nev., 68-72-71—211 -5
5. Hayden Shieh, Fremont, Calif., 70-70-71—211 -5
8. Léven Simon-Seay, Los Angeles, Calif., 70-71-73—214 -2
8. Jun Kang, Coquitlam, British Columbia, 71-70-73—214 -2
8. Will Strauss, San Diego, Calif., 69-69-76—214 -2
38. Matt Hedges, Ashland, , 75-75-74—224 +8
GIRLS TOP 10
1. Bethany Wu, Diamond Bar, Calif., 67-68-69—204 -12
2. Simin Feng, Orlando, Fla., 69-68-72—209 -7
2. Ziyi Wang, Beijing, China, 69-69-71—209 -7
4. Caroline Inglis, Eugene, 69-72-72—213 -3
5. Robynn Ree, Redondo Beach, Calif., 72-73-70—215 -1
6. Jocelyn Chia, La Crescenta, Calif., 73-72-72—217 +1
7. Brianna Becker, Las Vegas, Nev., 73-72-73—218 +2
8. Shiyang Fan, San Diego, Calif., 69-71-79—219 +3
8. Pitsinee Winyarat, Bangkok, Thailand, 71-73-75—219 +3
10. Angella Then, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., 77-76-68—221 +5
Tim Trower is sports editor of the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org