ETTERS -- Alex Hofstrand knew when he stepped to the sixth tee on Monday afternoon that even-par golf wasn't going to get it done in his bid for a second straight York County Amateur Golf Association Junior Championship.
Hofstrand trailed Evan Johnson by five shots with four holes to play in the 27-hole tournament at Valley Green Golf Course.
Johnson, who shot a sizzling 2-under-par 69 in the morning round of 18, played the first five holes of the afternoon nine in 2-under par to build what appeared to be a commanding lead.
"I was playing decently, and Evan was playing awesome golf," Hofstrand said. "I knew I needed to do something special. I had a lot of shots to make up."
Hofstrand upgraded his game from decent to superb in the closing holes. He went birdie-birdie-birdie-par over the final four holes.
Johnson, meanwhile, parred three of last four holes, but a triple bogey seven on No. 8 cost him the lead. Hofstrand's birdie three on the same hole allowed him to jump from three strokes down to one stroke up with only one hole remaining.
Both golfers parred the final hole and Hofstrand earned the 15-17 division title with a 2-under-par total of 104 for the 27 holes. Johnson finished 1-under at 105.
"Any time that you win a championship or a golf tournament, it's a good feeling," said Hofstrand, who graduated this year from Kennard-Dale High School. "Last year, it was a little different because the course (Springwood) was longer. Here, you have to hit good pitch shots."
Hofstrand's clutch putting stroke on the last four holes enabled him to pull off the comeback. He began the run by rolling in a 15-footer for a birdie two on No. 6. Hofstrand knocked down a 12-footer on No. 7 for a three and a 10-footer on No. 8 for another three. He barely missed a bid for a fourth consecutive birdie on No. 9, but was left with just a tap in for par.
"I played good the last four or five holes," Hofstrand said. "I knew if I got one (birdie) that I could get on a run."
Hofstrand praised the play of his young opponent. Johnson, 14, will be a freshman at Central York High School in the fall.
"Sixty-nine, that's an awesome score," Hofstrand said. "It's not easy to go low here. He was playing great and had just one bad hole."
The 69 is Johnson's career-best round.
"I came in playing bad," he said. "I just came off an 81, and so I was just focusing on staying focused the whole time. I knew the morning round was going to be a good one when on hole 12 I hit a cut over the trees to within eight feet of the hole, and I ended up making eagle."
The afternoon round was going very well, too, until hole No. 8.
"I sliced my drive," Johnson said, "and I had an easy shot coming in (to the hole), but I just pulled it. The ball was against the fence, and I couldn't really swing."
Johnson had to chop his ball out of some weeds next to the fence near the green. He needed two swings to get it out of the weeds and seven total strokes to get the ball in the cup.
Despite the disappointment on No. 8, Johnson was pleased with his overall play. He has the potential to be a major player in the York-Adams League in the upcoming years.
"I really didn't expect to take second overall," Johnson said.
Hofstrand, meanwhile, closed out a terrific season during which he swept the York County junior stroke play and match-play tournaments and was named Player of the Year.
"I had a great summer," he said.
The Barton family was well represented at Monday's tournament.
George Barton and his wife, Jean, started the junior golf program in 1968 to provide young players with a chance to compete on the county's courses.
The Bartons were joined by their daughter, Jorgene, their son, Doug, and grandson, Derek. Doug and Derek were both heavily involved in the running of the tournament.
In the 12-and-under division, Evan Greenplate shot a 1-over-par 36 on the front nine to take the title.
Gus Minkin won the 13-14 division with a 3-under-par 68.
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.