Numerically speaking, there’s only one spot left for Andrew Orischak to improve his lot as he tees it up one last time at the Sea Pines Junior Heritage.
Any golfer will tell you, though, it’s the most elusive one.
Two years ago, Orischak finished one shot out of a playoff eventually won by Keenan Huskey, now at South Carolina. Then last year, the Hilton Head Island golfer was himself the playoff victim, stung not only by Bryson Nimmer’s chip-in to force extra holes but his own putting woes minutes before.
All told, that’s three guys who have finished ahead of Orischak in the past two editions. If that leaves him with any lingering misgivings, he isn’t letting on.
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“I just happened to have two good tournaments out there,” he said. “I just hope that I can have another one. I’m just going to approach it just as I do every other tournament.”
The 25th edition will tee off Saturday at Heron Point, before moving over to Harbour Town for Sunday’s final round. A total of 58 other juniors will join Orischak in the chase for the boys’ crown; the girls’ field stands at 25, including six of the top nine in the state rankings.
“We always look forward to starting our year with this great national event,” said Chris Miller, managing director of the South Carolina Junior Golf Association.
Orischak has played just once since September, finishing 15th at the Jones Cup Junior Invitational at Sea Island, Ga. In addition to working on his game at Long Cove Club, he’s taking a heavier academic load as he works on graduating a year early from Hilton Head Island High.
In November, he signed a letter of intent to compete for the University of Virginia.
The education has carried to the golf course as well, where Orischak said he’s spent more time than ever before working on his chipping and putting.
“I’ve realized the short game is going to win you tournaments,” he said. “My putting has kind of been my Achilles heel of sorts. My whole last year or two, it’s probably led to not (getting a) victory. A lot of top-10s, but I have not putted real well.”
Last year’s Junior Heritage offered an apt example. Even before Nimmer’s magic, Orischak faced a 4-foot birdie putt at Harbour Town’s 18th that would have padded his lead.
“I thought I’d won it,” he said. “As I was walking up to the green, I said, ‘This will probably be the win right here.’ I just missed it.”
On the playoff hole, too, Orischak lipped out an 18-foot birdie attempt while Bluffton’s Nimmer drained a 4-footer of his own for the victory.
“You have to look at yourself,” Orischak said. “You can’t control things that other guys do, but you can control what you do. It’s just one of those things.”
Georgia’s Spencer Ralston, No. 13 in Golfweek’s junior rankings, heads the list of challengers. He’s joined by Hilton Head Island’s Walker Campbell, winner of the Jimmy Self Invitational, and Blade Junior Classic winner Caleb Proveaux.
Greenville’s Ashley Czarnecki and Lexington’s Gracyn Burgess, Nos. 1-2 in the SCJGA girls rankings, head up that division along with Kate Harper, winner of the Beth Daniel Junior Azalea.