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Limbhasut Rolls to Victory in 97th Western Junior


KK Limbhasut put on a dominant performance at Flossmoor Country Club in Illinois on Friday. The 54-hole leader went on to an eight-shot victory at the 2014 Western Junior Championship.

Limbhasut, 18, of Loma Linda, Calif., put together his third straight sub-70 round, this time a 3-under 69, to finish at a 10-under 278 total. Nobody came close to challenging, with Nick Hardy, of Northbrook, Ill., and Luis Gagne, of Orlando tying for second at 2-under 286.

After lapping the field, Limbhaust did not mince words about his performance. "This is probably the biggest event I've won," he said. "I have a lot of momentum now going into college."

Limbhasut will compete for the California Bears next year, and demonstrated this week that he's ready for the next level.

He held a two-shot lead entering the final round and was dead set against offering his opponents any hope. The final group of Limbhasut, Gagne and Dawson Armstrong, of Brentwood, Tenn., all birdied the first hole - setting up what looked like a tight battle for the title.

But Armstrong, who will be attending Lipscomb University next fall, played the remaining holes in 5-over to fall out of contention. For a time, Gagne held his own as the future LSU player mixed two birdies with two bogeys in the first five holes and was within two of Limbhasut on most of the front nine.

But Gagne missed a 4-footer for birdie on seven, and that's when the man in front of him started rolling. "The second shot on eight I hit to 6 feet and that got me going," Limbhasut said. "I then made a putt on No. 9 and that really got me going."

Limbhasut made a 5-footer for birdie on the ninth, made another birdie on 10 and lasered his tee shot on 13 to within 4 feet. He made the putt to reach 10-under and, at that point, his lead ballooned to six strokes. From there, he parred out and still managed to add two strokes to his lead.

For anybody who has followed Limbhasut's exploits of late, this performance was wholly unsurprising. In April, he won the Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic and placed second last week at the FJ Invitational, moving up to 13th in the AJGA Polo Golf Rankings.

A victory at the prestigious Western Junior, the nation's oldest national junior golf tournament, should move him into the top 10. Taisei Negishi of San Diego missed the cut in this event but caddied for Limbhasut over the weekend.

Negishi, a friend of Limbhasut's, sees that his companion compile a very mature, calculated game. "Look at his golf game, there's no way he was going to make any big numbers," Negishi said. "His golf game is just very solid. He hits it down the middle, he knows how to keep it in play, he doesn't make any stupid mistakes and he executes everything well."

And Limbhasut hasn't made himself into an elite player through lack of effort. Born in Thailand, he took up the game at the age of 8, but didn't immediately start climbing leaderboards. In fact, Limbhasut placed last in his first ever junior event, but that didn't deter him.

Instead, he kept working, won his first tournament a year later and soon became the top-ranked junior in Thailand. After telling his father of his dreams to be a professional golfer, his family moved to California, where he began competing against the best junior competition in the world.

And he proved wildly successful year after year, capturing four junior titles from 2010-13 before adding two more monstrous wins in 2014.

By 2012, he was being courted by Cal, UCLA and USC, with the Berkley university getting his verbal commitment that summer. He signed his national letter of intent to play this past November.

Limbhasut is just one part of a highly touted incoming freshman class for Cal, but his future coaches should be most excited about him.

At Flossmoor, he beat an elite field by eight, finishing at 10-under - astounding to Negishi who believed something around par might win following the first two rounds. And Limbhasut also had the disadvantage of facing the worst conditions early in Tuesday's first round. Only two players from that morning wave finished within 11 shots of him.

The results have shown consistent improvement, as has his game - Limbhasut said his ball-striking is much improved over the past year. Combined with his work ethic, he likely has one of the highest ceilings of the Class of 2014. But Limbhasut, despite his stated goal of being a professional golfer, is humble about his future in college.

"We'll see," Limbhasut said. "It'll be a big transition for me, so we'll see when I get there."

A nice attitude to have for sure, but Negishi is more assertive about his friend's prospects. "He'll do really well at Cal," Negishi said. "He'll be a big part of the team. I know the team is really big, but I'm pretty sure he'll be a starting member his freshman year."

Defending champion Collin Morikawa, of La Canada Flintridge, Calif., closed with a 6-under 66, tying the day-old course record set by Gagne and Limbhasut. Morikawa finished T14.

The above report is courtesy of the Western Golf Association. For more information and complete Western Junior results, visit http://www.wgaesf.org/site/c.dwJTKiO0JgI8G/b.6086625/k.99D4/Western_Junior.htm.