Justin Lane was 7 down but never felt out against fellow 15-year-old Jake Hommel in the men’s club championship final at Wiltwyck Golf Club played September 20.
Lane, a Woodstock resident and junior at Onteora High, showed the same poise and skill he used four weeks earlier to dethrone reigning Woodstock club champ Chris Grady. Along with being the youngest champion at both clubs, Lane became the first to hold both titles at the same time.
“I wasn’t even concerned about being 7 down,” he said while reflecting on the accomplishment. “I wasn’t the hometown kid at Wiltwyck…Just about everybody was rooting for Jake.”
The epic Woodstock match play final against Grady went five extra holes before Lane prevailed with a par on No. 41. A year before, veteran Grady earned his seventh club championship by stopping Lane, 5 and 4.
It was a learning opportunity for Lane against the same man who taught him history in eighth grade at Onteora. “I think mostly the difference from last year was match play experience,” Lane said. “Last year, I thought I had the game to win. I was more consistent this year. I didn’t make any stupid shots.”
Facing peer Hommel was a different situation for Lane. “Jake and I are friends,” he said the day before the 36-hole Wiltwyck final. “It will be fun.”
The fun belonged to Hommel through the first 20 holes. Hommel took a 6-up lead after the first 18, shooting 1-over-par 71. “I was only 3- or 4-over,” Lane recalled. “It was not bad. Jake just played that well.”
Things began to happen on the second 18 when Lane’s younger sister, Nicole, started caddying for him on No. 25. Hommel’s advantage dwindled to 4 up with 9 to play.
“I made birdies on 7 and 8 (holes 25 and 26 overall), and had a good chance to win 9 but halved it,” Lane said. “I kind of got the feeling halfway through that third nine I could do it. I knew Jake couldn’t keep going and going.”
Lane caught fire to win holes 29 through 34 with three birdies (Nos. 29, 30 and 33) and three pars. His 4-down deficit became a 2-up lead with two holes left.
Although Hommel made it interesting by winning No. 35, his drive into the rocks on the final hole forced him to chip out rather than shoot for the green.
“I won it with a par,” Lane said of the clincher. “It was fun, but I felt bad for Jake. He was in shock.”
Lane turned 16 this month. There was a birthday celebration for him, although his junior career over the past eight years seems like one big party. Signing a letter of intent to play NCAA Division I golf could come for Lane prior to his 17th birthday. College coaches have him on their radar from solid play in American Junior Golf Association events.
An AJGA victory in 2014 led to Lane playing in this year’s Rolex Tournament of Champions. Unfortunately, the T of C conflicted with the Ulster County Men’s Amateur Championship (Herdegen).
Lane had finished second to Jeff Schaller Jr. in the 2014 Herdegen and was relishing the challenge of Schaller Jr. and three-time winner Doug Kleeschulte Jr. Schaller Jr. repeated to claim his third crown before turning professional.
A Herdegen victory would have put Lane in the elite company of Chris DeForest, who is still the only 15-year-old to win the county title.
As for his next two years, honor student Lane’s prime objective will be obtaining a full college scholarship. Goals along the way include emulating the accomplishments of Taylor Walsh, a Herdegen titlist at 16 and state high school champion in his senior year at Ellenville.