It took all 18 holes, but James Blackwell held off an upset and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the International Junior Masters Thursday afternoon.
Blackwell, the top-seeded player at the tournament from North Tonawanda, conceded holes 14 and 15 to Eduardo Rivera of Colombia to bring the match even and only advanced by winning 18.
“To be completely honest with you, he probably deserved to win,” Blackwell said after the round. “His short game is absolutely phenomenal. For the age he is, to have a short game like that is amazing.”
Blackwell had a shot to take the lead on 17 after Rivera’s tee shot landed on the fairway -- one hole over. But with the threat of Rivera’s putting in the back of his mind, Blackwell took a gamble and went for a difficult putt, missing it long. Rivera sunk his putt to save par and split the hole.
“If it was somebody else, I probably wouldn’t have gone that aggressive at the pin,” Blackwell said. “I knew I had to make a birdie to win that hole.”
With the match tied on 18, Rivera’s tee shot went into the right rough, and he only made it worse by hitting his second shot into a water hazard. Blackwell’s first shot took a favorable bounce on the fairway before he hit a beautiful approach with a 9-iron from 160 yards out that landed within feet of the cup.
Rivera gave an attempt at chipping in from his drop before conceding the match.
The next round will begin around 2 p.m.