Li Wang wins playoff hole to take state championship

August 4, 2009

By Ryan Piersol

Li Wang, of Sammamish, won the WJGA state title in the 14-15 age division after hitting a three-round 217 July 29-31. By Ryan Piersol

Li Wang, of Sammamish, won the WJGA state title in the 14-15 age division after hitting a three-round 217 July 29-31. By Ryan Piersol

Li Wang is once again a state champion, even if it was by a matter of inches.

The Klahanie teenager was victorious in a one-hole playoff to win the 14-15 age division at the Washington Junior Golf Association state tournament July 31 at Glendale Country Club in Bellevue.

Wang carded an impressive 68-75-74 — 217 to finish in a tie for first, then walked away the champ when Enumclaw’s Tyler Salsbury was unable to sink a short putt during the first hole of a playoff.

This is the fourth age divisional state championship Wang has captured. He was in the 12-13 age division last year, meaning he’ll have one more year remaining in the 14-15 group.

“It’s a good tournament. It’s fun,” Wang said. “It’s well-organized, so I like playing in it.”

In the boys 12-13 group, Brian Mogg, of Sammamish, placed third after shooting a respectable 226 strokes over three rounds (71, 77 and 78). He finished nine strokes behind winner Frank Olav Garber, of Kirkland.Considered a favorite, Wang wasted no time in getting a jump on the field with his first-round 68. The score ended up being the low for the three-day event in every age division.

He came back the next day with a steady 75, but Salsbury gained some ground with a 72. Going into the final round, Wang was two shots ahead of Salsbury.

Wang began to pull away halfway through the round, before disaster struck on No.’s 14 and 15, as he double-bogeyed both holes. That forced him to have to come from behind, as he had to drain a long birdie putt on No. 18 to force the playoff.

After teeing off on No. 10 to start the playoff, both Wang and Salsbury had long putts set up to earn birdies. Both putts just missed, leaving the golfers with short putts for par. Wang knocked his putt in, while Salsbury’s rolled out.

“I thought he had the putt and I was getting ready to play the next hole. It was surprising,” Wang said. “I just tried to stick to my game plan (in the playoff) and hit a good drive.”

Wang’s final-day 74 was 1-over par. Salsbury finished the day with a 72. Auburn’s Kelly Campbell actually had a one-stroke lead going into the final round, but blew up on the final day with an 82 and placed fifth.

Sammamish’s Jack Strickland also competed in the 14-15 age division, scoring an 87-78 the first two rounds and failing to make the final-day cut.

Due to his performance this summer, Wang was also selected to join the four-member Hogan Cup team for the state of Washington. The team will play other Hogan Cup teams from states on the West Coast.

Wang said the key to his play at WJGA state tournaments has been his perspective.

“I just remember that it’s a 54-hole tournament and there’s a lot of golf to be played,” he said. “I just keep making shots and don’t let anything bother me too much.”

Reach Reporter Ryan Piersol at 392-6434, ext. 246, or rpiersol@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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