CANONSBURG – It was a long day for Katie Li.
Coming into the day on the verge of her first American Junior Golf Association girls golf tournament win with a four-shot lead, her initial tee time was scheduled for 7:20 a.m.
Mother Nature pushed that back several hours.
Despite not finishing her final round until after 5 p.m., the 14-year-old Li held off the field by shooting a 1-over 73 and finish at even par to win the three-day tournament.
“I literally can’t stop smiling,” Li said. “I’m so happy, and super relieved. Really relieved.”
Jean-Philippe Parr, who is also 14 years old, shot even par in his final round to cruise to victory. The teenager from St-Celestin, Quebec, won by five strokes.
The reason Li was so relieved was because of several near misses. She already had seven top-10 AJGA finishes.
In late April, Li finished second at the AJGA Junior All-Star tournament in York, ending one stroke back of champion Chloe Johnson. At the KPMG Stacey Lewis Junior All-Star Invitational in late June, Li finished 7th after shooting six over par in the final round.
“I choked twice before this, so I was really scared already,” she said. “But I (told myself), ‘If it’s supposed to happen, it will happen. Just stay calm, and it will all work out.’”
It worked out for the Basking Ridge, N.J., native. She held off a solid final round from Jennifer Cleary, who shot 2-under 70. Li ended up winning the tournament by three strokes.
“(I discovered) that I can handle pressure, for once,” Li said. “And that I can pull through and shoot a good round under so much pressure. It’s a huge confidence booster. Like all my work hasn’t been for nothing.”
For Parr, it was a day where all the stars aligned.
“I was putting really well, pretty much everything was working,” he said.
Parr started fast with six birdies to finish the front nine of his final round at 4-under. He built enough of a lead to stay in first place, despite five bogeys on the final nine holes.
Fox Chapel’s Adam Lauer finished second.
Like Li, Parr entered the final round in command. After Tuesday, he had a two-shot lead but had to keep his composure as he also was in search of his first AJGA victory.
“I just took a couple of breaths,” he said. “That’s pretty much how I (kept my composure). Just trying not to look at the score.”
Parr’s mother, Veronique, didn’t look at the scoreboard at all while her son was playing. She didn’t follow him around the course, either.
After travelling 10 hours from Quebec to Canonsburg, Veronique waited for her son to tell her himself how he did.
“I like a full story instead of just the numbers,” she said. “He can tell me, ‘Oh, I did that on that hole.’ It’s more fun for me, I think.
I’m pretty proud of him,” she continued. “He worked hard and it finally paid off, so that’s nice. He’s only 14, so a big win here is very nice.”
Canonsburg’s Rocco Salvitti finished the tournament at 10 over and tied for 5th place. South Fayette’s Luke Lestini finished seventh on the boys side, while Caroline McConnell tied for 22nd in the girls tournament.
“I played really good this tournament, it’s just there’s no defense in golf,” Salvitti said. “So when kids are making six birdies, five, four in a row, it’s hard to come back from that. When Jean-Philippe shot four under on the front end, that’s hard to beat.”