Nolen, 15, wins ti­tle on third ex­tra hole

three-foot par putt beats roude­bush

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Doug Smith

What a dif­fer­ence a year makes.

A year ago, Strat­ton Nolen was in the gallery at Lions Mu­nic­i­pal to watch a Fire­cracker Open play­off be­tween Scott Roude­bush and Matt Smith. Roude­bush won, and Nolen stayed around to watch the tro­phy pre­sen­ta­tion.

On Mon­day, it was Nolen who was in a Fire­cracker play­off with Roude­bush and Jor­dan Woolf. And this time it was Nolen, a 15-year-old who will be a sopho­more at West­lake High, who ac­cepted the cham­pion’s tro­phy.

Nolen be­came the sec­ondy­oungest Fire­cracker cham­pion af­ter ty­ing for 22nd last year as a 14-year-old. An­other cur­rent West­lake High golfer, Bren­den Red­fern, was 14 when he won the tour­na­ment in 2007.

“This is just amaz­ing. I can’t stop look­ing at all the names on this,” said Nolen, who did not let loose of the Fire­cracker Open tro­phy for at least 30 min­utes. “You see (Tom) Kite, (Ben) Cren­shaw, Scott (Roude­bush) and of course (six-time Fire­cracker win­ner) Billy Clagett.

“I am es­pe­cially glad to have my name on some­thing with Billy Clagett,” Nolen said. “I have watched him for so long and have al­ways looked up to him. He has re­ally been an in­spi­ra­tion to me.”

Clagett was in the gallery Mon­day, along with Red­fern,

Con­tin­ued from C as the Fire­cracker con­cluded.

On Sun­day, Nolen, Roude­bush and Woolf fin­ished the reg­u­la­tion 36 holes of the rain­short­ened tour­na­ment tied at 6-un­der-par 136. Af­ter dark­ness ruled out a play­off Sun­day evening, they re­turned to the course Mon­day morn­ing.

All three made par on the par-4 first hole. Woolf was elim­i­nated on the par-5 sec­ond hole, where he made par while Nolen and Roude­bush got up and down from just off the green for birdies.

Nolen clinched the ti­tle on the par-4 third hole. His ap­proach was just off the green to the left, while Roude­bush was just over the green. Roude­bush’s third shot came up in the fringe some 30 feet short of the cup, and he missed that chip for par. Nolen chipped to three feet and made the putt to clinch the vic­tory.

Nolen said he for­tu­nate just to be in a play­off. An open­ing round of three-un­der 68 put him in a tie for sev­enth go­ing into Sun­day’s fi­nal round, and 27 play­ers were within five shots of the lead.

“There were so many good play­ers un­der par, and I fig­ured some­body, Scott or some­body else, would go real low Sun­day. I thought some­body would get to 10, 11 or 12 un­der,” Nolen said. “I had in my mind that I needed to shoot 64 to have a chance.”

How­ever, Sun­day’s scores were higher than ex­pected, and a sec­ond straight 68 put Nolen in the play­off.

Nolen won the 14-and-un­der di­vi­sion at last year’s Texas State Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship, and as a ninth grader was a mem­ber of the West­lake team that won the UIL Class 5A state cham­pi­onship this past sea­son.

Now, just like his high school team­mate Red­fern, he’ll have a re­served park­ing space at Lions Mu­nic­i­pal dur­ing the Fire­cracker Open, a perk for past cham­pi­ons.

Of course, Nolen does not yet have his driver’s li­cense.

“I’ll have my li­cense by this time next year, and I’ll def­i­nitely be back,” he said. made bo­gey on sec­ond ex­tra hole. Strat­ton Nolen, who will be a West­lake sopho­more in the fall, clutched the Fire­cracker Open tro­phy af­ter chip­ping to within three feet of the cup and sink­ing his par putt on the third hole at Lions. De­fend­ing cham­pion Scott Roude­bush watches his tee shot on the third play­off hole. Sev­eral min­utes later, he left a chip 30 feet short, and that opened the door to vic­tory for Strat­ton Nolen.


Nolen is sec­ondy­oungest Fire­cracker cham­pion.

Jor­dan Woolf

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