HIGH SCHOOL SECTION GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS : Riley Wins With Birdie on 18

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Madison High sophomore Chris Riley wouldn't have minded a sudden-death playoff Wednesday. In fact, he figured it was the best possible scenario.

But when his 20-foot lag putt dropped into the hole for a birdie, it was suddenly over. He had won the San Diego Section golf title by one stroke over two seniors--Todd Demsey and Tim Hart from Torrey Pines High--on the Willow Glen Course at Singing Hills Country Club.

Even though Riley had outplayed three seniors--Demsey, Hart and Travis Williams from San Dieguito--there was no big celebration. Just a slight movement of his right hand as the ball fell into the cup.

Pretty smooth stuff for a 16-year-old, but Demsey knew Riley was no ordinary sophomore.

"I've played against him in junior golf," said Demsey, who will be attending Arizona State on a golf scholarship next fall. "I knew he was a pretty tough player."

Demsey, playing in the group in front of Riley and Williams, birdied the par-3 18th to briefly tie them. Ultimately, it was not enough to stay even with Riley, who shot a three-under-par 33 on the back nine and finished with a two-under 70 and a two-round total of 141 (two under).

"I three-putted on 11 and missed a three-footer for birdie on 15," Demsey said. "I knew they'd come back to haunt me. Against people like Riley, you can't do that. He's too good."

Riley wasn't too good at the start of Wednesday's round. He began it with bogeys on the first and third holes to fall four strokes behind Hart, the first-round leader.

But Riley quickly recovered with birdies on the fourth and fifth holes. He then birdied the 10th and closed to within a stroke of Hart by sinking an 18-foot putt for birdie on the 14th. A 10-footer on the 15th would have tied, but the ball lipped out.

"I knew I had to make a charge coming down the stretch," Riley said. "At first my putting was shaky, but then I started making some putts. I started to feel confident."

After trailing Hart the entire round, Williams made his move on the 15th with a five-foot birdie putt. He then bogeyed 16 to fall one back, but came back to birdie 17 and force a three-way tie. But Williams' drive on the par-3, 170-yard 18th found the right trap, thus ending his chances. He wound up with a bogey and finished two back, in a tie with Mike Heath of Mt. Carmel for fourth.

Hart birdied 18, putting after Riley had clinched the title, but bogeys on 15 and 17 had doomed him. His 15-footer would have been for the tie of Riley had missed.

"I probably wouldn't have made my mine if he wouldn't have made his," said Hart, who shot 73 Wednesday after an opening 69. "I missed two short putts on the back nine, and I didn't even scare the hole from twenty feet all day."

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