After an up and down round one at the 2021 Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship at TPC Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, girls golfer Jacqueline Putrino — who won the 2020 Florida High School Athletic Association Class 3A individual state title and led Riverview High to the team state title — ate the Italian dish as a way to reset. It’s her favorite food, Putrino said.
On this weekend, it was also a helpful one: Putrino recovered in round two, shooting an even par 72 to put herself in better position. She found herself four strokes back of the lead entering the final round. Putrino decided that if once is good, twice is better, so she ate chicken Marsala again. She copied the rest of her night and morning routines too, trying to re-create the magic.
It worked. On a day when 36-hole leader Andie Smith of Hobe Sound struggled, Putrino played steady golf, not trying to do too much and playing for par on most holes. By the time the 18th hole arrived, Putrino was in position to grab the top spot for herself. She sank an 18-foot putt to win the championship (six over par; 222) by one stroke over Hyo Joon Jang of South Korea (seven over par; 223).
“I had so much belief that I was going to make that putt," Putrino said. "Everyone gets that feeling sometimes. It's hard to explain, but I'm lucky that I felt it on that one."
Especially after such a rigorous tournament. The course at TPC Myrtle Beach is notoriously tough. In the past, it has played host to the Senior PGA Tour Championship as well as other high-stakes events. Putrino, who played in the tournament last year, said she remembered the challenge the greens presented; they become difficult to read outside of four to five feet, she said. She also remembered that the pin placement on the final day was significantly more difficult, which played into her strategy.
So maybe the win was not about the Marsala. Maybe it was Putrino's preparation that carried her to victory. Or maybe it was fate. Putrino was in attendance at the 2021 LECOM Suncoast Classic on Feb. 21 at Lakewood National Golf Club in Lakewood Ranch. She watched as Hayden Buckley played steady golf while leader Billy Kennerly collapsed on the final four holes, blowing a three-stroke lead. Buckley would eventually enter a three-person playoff for the win that Kennerly missed entirely.
On the first hole of the playoff, Buckley sank a 10-foot birdie putt to win the event, capping a round eerily similar to what Putrino faced at the World Junior Championship.
"That moment inspired me," Putrino said. "I was thinking about it a lot [during her round]."
Putrino, who is committed to Florida State, said she received a pre-tournament call from current Florida State golfer Taylor Roberts, who won the event in 2020. Putrino said Roberts told Putrino she had to defend Roberts' title, since Roberts herself couldn't. Roberts was also one of the first people to call Putrino after she won. Putrino said Roberts, whom Putrino has known for years, was a big factor in her commitment to the Seminoles.
A win at the World Junior Championships is significant, but Putrino remains unsatisfied. The day after her win, she was back to working on her putting, which Putrino said was a little shaky at the championships. She needed the practice to get her confidence back, she said — though the trophy also helps.
Whatever helped her claw her way to a win at the championships — fate, preparation or even the Marsala — one thing is certain: Putrino's game is all it's cooked up to be.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.