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Wheeler wins Junior PGA Championship

Saturday, August 11, 2012

(Photo)
Gabe Wheeler, a soon to be sophomore at Sikeston High School, is pictured with his first place plaque after winning the Gateway Junior PGA Tour Championship Aug. 6-7 at Winghaven Country Club in O'Fallon.
(Submitted photo)
sports@standard-democrat.com

O'FALLON -- He had the momentum after a 1-under par back nine.

All Gabe Wheeler had to do was finish the round by defeating another in a sudden death shoot-out and he would take home a championship.

Pressure? Not much, according to Wheeler.

Qualifying for the Missouri state tournament as a freshman golfer at Sikeston eased any nervous jitters he may have had going into a playoff.

"Playing in high school and playing against kids from all over the state took a lot of the pressure down," he said. "I'm used to the pressure and knowing what I have to do. I just played my own game."

With a par, Wheeler ended up snatching first place at the Gateway Junior PGA Tour Championship in O'Fallon Monday, Aug. 7, at Winghaven Country Club after just one hole.

"My mentality going into any type of situation is to play my own game," Wheeler said. "I've been in playoff-type holes before, so I think that really helped."

Wheeler, who earned a spot in the tournament from the SEMO district, beat out a field of 18 players in his age group which qualified to play in the final championship match.

The soon to be sophomore shot four over par after the first day of the tournament, which put him two strokes behind the leader.

Paired with the tournament's leader on the second day, Wheeler rebounded in a big way with a 3-over par 75, thanks in large part to a one under par performance on the back nine, pitting him and the leader against one another in a playoff.

"He had kind of a bad back nine and I had a really good back nine," Wheeler said about chasing down his opponent. "I was feeling comfortable and confident after what I had done on the back nine. I think it gave me an edge going into the playoff."

As a freshman golfer at Sikeston, Wheeler finished 53rd with a total score of 163 during the Class 3 state championship tournament at Rivercut Golf Club in Springfield. Wheeler, and three others, led Sikeston to a seventh place team finish -- the best finish for any Sikeston golf team since 2002.