Cole Starnes started out the Boys State Junior Championship at Purdue’s Brick Boilermaker Golf Complex Monday by shooting a 36-hole total of 9-over-par, ranking him as a number-43-seed going into match play. The 9-over-par total was 15 shots off of stroke play champion and number-one-seed going into match play Jacob Modleski’s 5-under-par 36-hole total.
“During stroke play, I didn’t play that great,” Starnes said. “I was able to go to the range though and figure stuff out before the match play, and I ended up playing much better.”
Being a number-43-seed, Starnes didn’t appear as much of a threat in the tournament, but the rankings ended up not doing him justice.
Starnes started his first match by defeating Maverick Conaway 4&3. With momentum from starting off match play strong with a big win, Starnes continued to win both the second round 5&3 and the Round of 16 5&4.
With delays due to rain and unplayable conditions Thursday, there was quite the challenge. Starnes was not able to finish his Quarterfinal match in time before the sun went down, so he had to come back the next morning and play the 20th
hole of his match against Kash Bellar. This was the par-3, 2nd
at Kampen, which is one of the toughest holes on the course. Starnes defeated Bellar by making par to move onto the Semifinals, where he faced Alex Holder. Starnes defeated Holder 4&3, allowing him to move onto the finals, where he would face Sam McWilliams. Being in the Finals was a sort of shock to Starnes.
“My main goal going into the event was trying to get into the top-64 to make it into match play," Starnes said. "I knew I could get pretty far, but I never knew I could get as far as I did.”
Starnes played steady the whole final match and was able to keep it close to all square the whole time until the last few holes, where he started to feel the nerves a little. McWilliams was 1-up on Starnes going into the last two holes.
“I was pretty nervous today, especially going down the last stretch,” Starnes said. “I just tried to stay focused on the shot in front of me and calm my nerves by taking deep breaths before each shot.”
These tactics by Starnes ended up helping him come out on top. Starnes made a clutch birdie putt on the par-3, 17th
and a solid par on the par-4, 18th
to end the match 1-up on McWilliams and become the 2021 Boys State Junior champion. This is Starnes first win since the Greensburg Country Club Junior Tour event in 2020, where Starnes fired a round of 7-over-par, 77 to win by one.
“It feels great to finally breakthrough and win a big event,” Starnes said. “I’ve been close so many times, but it’s great to know that I do have the ability to win.”
Stroke Play Results
Match Play Bracket