Poised Price Butcher wins LGA Junior

After playing solid golf for most of the week in the Louisiana Golf Association’s Junior Amateur Championship, 15-year-old Price Butcher had just bogeyed the par-4 15th and par-3 17th. That dropped him into a tie for the lead heading into the final hole of the third and final round Friday at TPC Louisiana in Avondale.

As he walked up to the tee box on the 565-yard par-5 18th hole with the more-experienced Blake Caldwell, it would have been easy to write off Butcher.

Instead, the Newman School sophomore calmly stepped up and did what he had been doing most of the tournament: he calmly hit his drive down the fairway, put it on the green in regulation and finished his par for the day’s low score of 68.

His par 213 was two shots better than Caldwell, who took a double-bogey 7 on 18. Caldwell, of Ponchatoula, then finished in a tie with Micah Goulas of New Iberia for second place.

“I played really well today; I hit 16 greens, 12 fairways and made five birdies,” said Butcher, who finished 24th last year in Alexandria as a 14-year-old.

“I just took one shot at a time and tried to focus. Heading into the day, I thought I needed to shoot 2-under or below, and I’m very happy.”

Butcher and Caldwell began the day tied for third, one shot off the lead. Caldwell sizzled early with four birdies on the front nine to jump out to a two-shot lead. But he couldn’t muster any birdies on the back nine, while Butcher birdied the par-4 10th and 12th to pull even.

On a hot and stifling day with a heat index around 100 by noon, Butcher kept his cool despite struggling on 15 and 17.

“I had no idea what was happening (with the rest of the field),” he said. “… But I had to focus on my game, and that was all I could do.

“The wind picked up a lot. It affected me a little when some putts got away from me, but not all that much.

“I missed an easy birdie putt on 14, and that kind of rattled me a little bit. I three-putted on 15, but then made birdie on 16 and three-putted again on 17. I just battled my way through it.”

Two other New Orleans area golfers had nice final rounds and finished in the top five. St. Paul’s Thomas Ruli Jr. of Mandeville and Northlake Christian’s Stephen Wall of Madisonville each shot 71 Friday, and finished fourth and fifth.

For his victory, Butcher took home a crystal trophy, a Titleist bag and a $500 gift certificate. He also will have his name engraved on a plaque as the tournament’s 56th winner, alongside past champions such as PGA professionals Hal Sutton and David Toms.