JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jason Duff was content to just be there.
Now, his name will never leave.
Duff, the All-News4Jax boys golfer of the year from Menendez High School, never expected to wrap up his career with a state championship. Sure, Duff won both the district and region titles to erase back-to-back years of close calls of not making the state tournament, but winning the Class 2A championship?
It didn’t seem realistic.
But with a sterling back nine and a gut-check par save on the 17th hole in the final round, Duff made it reality. A tournament that Duff was just happy to be in the field for, will now have his name listed in the history books forever.
“My expectations are high for myself, which they should be,” said Duff, who has signed with UNF. “But at the end of the day, after I finished up to call myself state champion, and seeing all those names [to have won titles], Brooks Koepka, Mark Calcavecchia, just putting my name in the history books with those guys, it’s definitely something special. Its honoring. … The little guy from Pedro [Menendez] got it done this year. I was happy to represent my school and bring home a title.”
That excitement grew throughout the back nine of the two-day tournament at El Campeon at the Mission Inn Resort and Club. Duff had a solid opening round, a 4-over 76, but he opened the second day three strokes off the lead.
His back nine, much like his entire postseason, was sizzling.
Duff had four birdies in that stretch, but his best hole came on the par-5 17th hole.
He tried to lay up, but his shot clipped the top of a willow tree and came back down not far from where his second shot was initially from. Earlier in the season, Duff may not have responded as well as he could have. But he came back and stuck his approach inside 20 feet and sank the putt for par. Eighteen was no gimmie, Duff said, but the most troublesome spot of the back nine was done.
One hole later, Duff wrapped up a 3-under 69 and signed a championship-sealing scorecard. It was the only round in 2A under 70, and it came on his coach’s birthday.
“When he came off 17 with that par, I thought to myself, ‘this is good. This is really good,’” said Menendez coach Michael Ayala.
“As competitive as golf is in Florida, for him to take state, that’s quite an accomplishment. He’s going to be thinking about that for the rest of his life. Because I know it has to be special for him because it was special for me. On my birthday. He said, ‘Coach, this one’s for you.’ Kind of teared up a little bit. Pretty special.”
Jack Barned, Ponte Vedra, Fr.
Had rounds of 75-74 at state to finish at 5-over 149 and tied for sixth as Sharks won the Class 2A state championship.
Jason Duff, Menendez, Sr.
Area’s top golfer was area’s lone state champ, shooting rounds of 76-69 to win the 2A crown by two strokes with a 1-over 145. District champ with a 73. Region champ with a 71.
Will McGriff, Ponte Vedra, Fr.
Went 74-77 for a 7-over 151 and a T-8 in 2A state tournament, helping push the Sharks to six-stroke win for team title. Runner-up in St. Johns County championship.
Justin Ortiguera, Ponte Vedra, Sr.
Went 73-75 for a 4-over 148 in the Class 2A state meet to finish T-4 and lead Sharks to the team state championship.
Andrew Riley, Creekside, Jr.
Had rounds of 74-75 in the Class 3A state meet and finished 20th a 5-over 149. Also won St. Johns County championship at Slammer & Squire with a 66.
Tommy Bishop, Episcopal, Sr.
Sam Davis, Wolfson, So.
Will Davis, Wolfson, Jr.
Andrew McLauchlan, Providence, So.
Clay Tucker, Bishop Kenny, Jr.
Carson Brewer, Providence, Fr.
Chase Carroll, Middleburg, Fr.
Connor Holcroft, Ponte Vedra, Jr.
Jackson Klauk, Nease, Fr.
Lance Minson, Columbia, Sr.
Stewart Slayden, Ponte Vedra, Sr.
Cody Tucker, Bishop Kenny, Fr.
Alexander Waller, Bishop Kenny, Jr.