A small tweak to Jackson Fiel's golf game led the Southern Regional High School sophomore to his first individual tournament victory at the Ocean County Tournament at Westlake Country Club in Jackson on Monday.
Fiel shot an 8-over-par 79 to beat 83 other golfers from 17 Ocean County schools. Fiel is the first Southern golfer to win the tournament since Anthony Campanile in 2002.
Rams coach Jeffrey Reilly said the coaching staff has worked with Fiel to be more patient and thoughtful on the green. Fiel, who played in every varsity match as a freshman, used that approach Monday.
"It was really key for me to focus on each shot instead of par; to think about my next shot and what I wanted it to be," the 16-year old Beach Haven Crest resident said in a phone interview Tuesday. "On the 16th hole I made a bad double bogey but followed up on 17 and 18 by making two pars to seal a 79."
He didn't stop there.
On Friday, Fiel used an eagle and two birdies to shoot a personal-best 34 for nine holes at Southern's home course of Ocean Acres Golf Club, helping the Rams beat Brick Memorial. Fiel eagled the 520-yard fifth hole as he put his second shot 4 feet from the pin from 180 yards away and made the putt. The birdies were on the par-5, 500-yard first hole and the par-4, 365-yard sixth hole.
Fiel said he knew he was going to have a good day at the Ocean County Tournament when he got plugged in the greenside bunker on the first hole. He swung as hard as he could, got great contact and the ball wound up sitting on the edge of the hole. Fiel had hoped to birdie the hole but still made par after after that nice shot.
"He hits the ball incredibly far, like a lot of young kids, but he always expects himself to make birdies," Reilly said. "We got him to adjust and play smarter golf. He's more patient and more mature."
Fiel combined with fellow sophomores Chase Clark, Will Wallice, Tristan Leming along with senior Mike Chiodi to finish third in the team scoring with 351 points. Point Pleasant Boro won the team title with 344 points and Toms River North was second with 348.
The Rams are battling with Toms River North for the Shore Conference A South title. Reilly said the division winner in each of the past 10 years was one of the two with Southern having most recently won in 2011 and Toms River North last season. The Rams (8-2, 5-0) will host Toms River North on Wednesday, May 1.
"Our rival is North and we have a player, in me, that beat their best five, so it's showing we are in this and we can pull out a win against them both times," said Field, who also plays football for Southern. "Knowing they are beatable is key for us.
"They were second and we were third (at the Ocean County Tournament), but individually, I know from experience playing them and some of the scores my teammates have put up, it's going to be a great match when we play them."
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