Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Buried under a blanket of microwave heat, in the middle of a dead-heat stretch run, John Fordham wasn't sweating -- at least not metaphorically.

"No, I really didn't feel any pressure. I just kind of played my game,'' said Fordham moments after winning the Albany Junior Open on Tuesday at Stonebridge.

Cool and collected. That was Fordham, who couldn't find a birdie on the front nine in Tuesday's final round of the two-day event. And when Fordham, who won the event last year as well, went to the turn, Ty Howze was turning with him.

Howze, a senior at Lowndes High in Valdosta, entered the day two strokes behind Fordham, who fired a three-under 69 on Monday. But Howze had a couple of birdies to go with a pair of bogeys on the front nine and his 36 wasn't just even par, it was good enough to catch Fordham, who shot 38 over the first nine holes.

"We knew we were tied after nine,'' Fordham said. "But I didn't feel any pressure. I figured it would be a two-horse race.''

Fordham, who graduated from Colquitt County and has a scholarship to play golf at Valdosta State, and Howze know each other well. And as they trudged through the heat down the back nine, it was Fordham who broke free at the Par 5 13th hole. Fordham's six-foot putt dropped in for his only birdie of the day. Howze parred 13, and then Fordham built a two-stroke lead when he parred the 15th hole and Howze had to settle for a bogey.

With a two-stroke lead with three holes left, Fordham sailed home and won with a two-day 142 (69-73) to win his second consecutive Albany Junior Open. Howze finished at 144 (71-73).

Spencer Ferrell, a star at Byne who was The Herald's co-Player of the Year for boys golf, fired a low round of 69 on Tuesday to finish in a tie with Howze at 144. Shad Tuten was fourth at 149 (74-75) and Matt Johns was fifth at 152 (73-79). Ferrell, Tuten and Johns are all going to Darton on scholarships. The top three golfers received partial scholarship money along with their trophies.

"This was my last junior tournament,'' Fordham said. "It's always a good feeling to go out with a win. I'm not a big fan of losing.''

He is a big fan of Stonebridge's lush 6,913-yard course, which held the 8th annual Junior Open.

"I really like this course,'' Fordham said. "I just feel comfortable here. I don't play here very often, but I always have a good feeling coming here.''

The combination of the course and his two-stroke lead to start the day put Fordham at ease, even after Howze caught him after nine.

"I felt pretty confident. I knew coming into (today's round) that if I played even I would have a chance to win. I just kept plugging along and tried to stay steady," Fordham said. "I didn't hit my driver very well on the front nine, but hit it much better on the back. I kept thinking that if I played even par I would get it done.''

There was even more drama in the girls 16-to-18 final, where Brooke Spinks needed a break-your-heart comeback shot and two playoff holes to beat Lee County's Christian Liggin, who was The Herald's Player of the Year in girls golf.

Spinks, who shot a 74 on Monday, started the day with a two-stroke lead, but Liggin caught Spinks at the 16th hole and they both bogeyed the final two holes to finish tied at 158.

Then, they both bogeyed the first playoff hole and then it appeared as if Liggin would have a chance to win when Spinks hit her second shot into the water.

"When I went in the water I thought she had a pretty good chance to step up and take the chance to win it,'' Spinks said. "But I tried to stay positive about the whole thing, and I was thinking if I can get up and down and make a bogey I could go from there.''

She hit her next shot -- a wedge from about 100 yards out -- to within four feet of the cup, and then tapped in the bogey she needed to stay alive. Liggin, meanwhile, three-putted and settled for a double bogey.

"I was very excited to win,'' said Spinks, an upcoming senior at Tift County High who finished fourth in the Class AAAAA state golf tournament this spring. "I had a great competitor. I've never had to go into a playoff before so I was very proud to win it."

The Albany Junior Open has competitions, beginning with the 8-and-under group, which played four holes on Monday. Tyler Jenkins shot a 20 to win that division. Flint Bekkers won the 9-to-11 division with a two-day total of 96 (nine holes each day). Crawford Collett won the 11-13 division with a two-day total of 158 (79-79).

Deerfield-Windsor's Joshua Crews, who was The Herald's co-Player of the Year in golf along with Ferrell, won the 14-15 division with a 151 (77-74). Tripp Talley was second at 156 (76-80).