Brett Roberts stood over his final putt at the 18th green today and made his mind go blank. All the practice and routine had led to one final thing on his checklist.
The rising high school senior from Ft. Lauderdale had learned that over time, through trial and error, a junior golf career that has already taken him up and down through so many tournaments and so many putts just like this one.
Roberts, who will head to Florida State after one more year at a football high school, sank the putt to win the Wyndham Invitational AJGA event at Sedgefield. St. Thomas Aquinas is now a golf school.
“I just wanted to finish,” he said. “I made it a little too interesting, but I really wanted to make that last putt.”
Roberts shot a final-round 70 to hold off Benjamin James, his playing partner, and Karl Vilips, the No. 1 ranked junior in the country. His final putt, a short uphill three-footer, gave him one-shot win over James.
His mother Kim and his father Lenny watched from the edge of the green. But young Brett was completely on his own.
“To me this is about life lessons, teaching kids to compete at the highest level to see how you measure up with the best kids out there,” his father said afterward. “Win, lose or draw, it’s just competing. We knew his game was there, and it’s been a challenge to be consistent on the road, to establish a routine every day.
“He did that this week. I had him fill out his own itinerary every day, what time he was waking up, what time he was going to breakfast, what time he was showing up at the course, and he stayed consistent with it all week.”
It wasn’t easy. Roberts said it was a grind after 64 in the second round vaulted him up the leaderboard, followed by a disappointing 73 on Thursday. Roberts came into the final day three off the lead but soon made up the deficit and set up a back-nine push to the win.
The leaderboard jammed up quickly as final-round leader Maxwell Ford gave up strokes early and fell into a logjam of players headed toward the 10 tee. Roberts took the lead before a double-bogey disaster at the 10th almost ruined his day.
“I was up and down a little bit,” he admitted.
But that was where past struggles and this week’s routine set in. Asked if he thought he was done after 10, Robert said no. He was prepared.
“ Definitely my mental game and my putting,” he said, explaining how he righted himself at just the right time. “A lot of practice mentally, getting off to rough starts and being able to fight back and make a couple of birdies.”
Headed into a key stretch of holes, Roberts began to separate himself from the field.
“I knew I just needed to make a couple of birdies coming in,” he said.
Birdies at 13 and 15 gave him room to breath a little, especially after Vilips hit his approach at No. 15 into the water. A double-bogey there resulted in the two strokes he would lose by.
Coming down the stretch, Roberts had to beat his playing partner.
It came down to the 18th, and when Roberts pushed his downhill par putt past the hole and James made his, Roberts needed one more putt to win.
He read it, stood over it, let his mind go free and sank it.
The putt ended another good week for one of the best junior tournaments in the country.
“Four days of great golf and we end up with a great champion in Mr. Brett Roberts,” AJGA tournament director Tyler Sumner said. “This tournament ranks up there with the best in junior golf with the strength of the field, the history of this event, all the tour players who have played here along the way, it really does carry a lot of weight.”
Roberts will now head off into summer a different golfer, and when he returns to school, he’ll do so with the knowledge that he can play the game at the highest level on a course where the pros will play the Wyndham Championship the first week in August.
“I’ll be able to compare myself to what the pros do,” he said.
His school has 16 grads currently playing in the NFL, some 36 in all through the years, players like Gio Bernard, Michael Irvin and Brian Piccolo. Now he’ll carry a Wyndham Invitational title to St. Thomas Aquinas before heading off to another football school.
“Brooks Koepka,” Roberts said, smiling.
Soon to be a golf school. It’s on the checklist.