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Monday, November 20, 2017

Royce Brook All-Stars come up just short in PGA Junior League final

   The Royce Brook All-Stars, a talented group of junior players representing New Jersey, made it all the way to the final of the PGA Junior League Championship, presented by National Car Rental, this weekend at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
   The Royce Brook stars came up on the short end of a 6.5-5.5 decision to Georgia, but that doesn’t take away one little bit from the experience these young players had in Scottsdale and have had being a part of the PGA Junior League program.
   The Royce Brook All-Stars were put together by Anthony Latham, the PGA Director of Junior Development at Royce Brook Golf Club in north-central New Jersey. Several of the 10 boys and girls who make up the team are familiar to those who follow my posts on the Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour.
   One of the veterans of this year’s Royce Brook team is 14-year-old Joshua Ryan, who reached the PIAA Class AAA Championship as a freshman with Norristown this fall. Last summer Ryan captured the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior-Junior championship at Phoenixville Country Club.
   Ryan’s mother Michelle told me at the District One Class AAA Tournament that Josh’s success at a relatively young age has a lot to do with the experience he’s gained competing in the PGA Junior League program.
   Joining Ryan on the Royce Brook All-Stars roster were: Garrett Engle, like Ryan a 14-year-old; Calen Sanderson, 13, Nathan Drogin, 13, Logan Paczewski, 13, Franklin Zhu, 12, Hunter Po, 12, Adrian Jordan, 11, Katie Li, 11, and Megan Meng, 11. I’m going to guess that Latham’s assistant coach, Colin Sanderson, is related to Calen.
   The Royce Brook All-Stars advanced to Scottsdale by winning the Mid-Atlantic Regional crown for the fourth straight year. The Mid-Atlantic tourney was held in September at LedgeRock Golf Club in Berks County. Ryan, Sanderson, Zhu and Paczewski were the returning players from last year’s team that reached the nationals.
   Before play got under way Friday, there was a skills challenge Thursday and Ryan outbombed Engle to capture the long-drive competition. Ryan’s winning drive was 312 yards, just four yards farther than his teammate.
   There’s a neat Q&A with Ryan on the PGA of America website, including a picture of him receiving his bronze medal from former 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott at the 2014 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, which kicks off Masters week at Augusta National Golf Club each year.
   The Royce Brook All-Stars swept to a 3-0-0 record over Texas, Arkansas and Illinois to win the Ryder Division and advance to Sunday’s national final against Georgia, which has played for the championship in each of the six years of the PGA Junior League’s existence.
   The PGA Junior League competition consists of nine-hole matches in which trios of players play a scramble format. Teams compete for “flags” at the end of each three-hole segment. No penalty includes a distance factor and all hazards are lateral. They’re kids, they don’t want a fast, fun format bogged down with a discussion of where an errant shot crossed the hazard.
   Royce Brook’s next-to-last threesome of Li, Meng and Jordan conceded a putt on the final hole that gave their opponents, William Love, 14, Harris Barth, 13 and Lucas Jinglov, 13, the clinching half-point.
   Watch out for Li, it sounds like she’s a player. She holed a 60-foot bomb for birdie on the 13th hole that kept her team in the running right to the final hole.
   Engle and Paczewski erupted for a stretch of three straight birdies that sparked Royce Brook’s rally from an early deficit.
   Ryan and Georgia’s Ethan Gao, a 12-year-old from Alpharetta, Ga., put on quite a show in the last match of the day. On the 378-yard, par-4 15th hole, Ryan stuck his approach from 180 yards away to three feet while Gao, firing from well below the elevated green, hit his approach from 70 yards to 12 feet and matched Ryan’s birdie.
   You can watch all these future stars when The Golf Channel broadcasts the final Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST). It will be rebroadcast later that night (12:30 a.m. EST, 9:30 PST) and again Friday, Dec. 15 (12 noon EST, 9 a.m. PST).

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hamilton, Maddaloni shoot 72 at The Bucks Club to claim Junior Tour victories

   Jack Hamilton of West Chester saved his best for last.
   The Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour staged its final event of 2017 on a chilly Saturday that eventually turned rainy as well at The Bucks Club in Jamison.
   But it didn’t seem to bother Hamilton, who had three birdies in a brilliant 2-under 32 on the back nine of the 6,210-yard, par-70 Bucks Club layout that enabled him to card a 2-over 72 and capture top honors in the 16-to-18 division.
   The Junior Tour is actually in the middle of its wraparound 2017-’18 season, but the youngsters will have to take a break, or at least head for the simulators for a little while. The next time they tee it up in a Junior Tour event sometime next March, it will probably still be pretty chilly, but these kids know how to deal with tough conditions. The Graham Company is the title sponsor of the Junior Tour.
    Hamilton proved it again Saturday. He finished five shots clear of Dylan Gooneratne, a District One Class AAA qualifier for Plymouth-Whitemarsh this fall, and Cole Shew of West Chester, both of whom finished tied for second, each carding a 77.
   Stephen Lorenzo of Upper Gwynedd finished fourth with an 80, Andrew Benner of Hellertown was fifth with an 82, Nicholas Hano of Warrington was sixth with an 83 and Jack Herbine of Doylestown was seventh with an 85.
   Colin Hoy of Harleysville finished eighth with a 92, Mason Asadoorian of Richboro was ninth with a 94, Will Hage of Phoenixville was 10th with a 96 and Brady Ross of Feasterville was 11th with a 112.
   Jake Maddaloni of Newtown Square was just as good as Hamilton in capturing top honors in the 13-to-15 division with a 2-over 72. Maddaloni also had three birdies, one on the outgoing nine and two on the inward nine. Kevin Motil of Sewell, N.J. was the runnerup with a 6-over 76 that included a birdie at the 15th.
   Travis Dix of Howell, N.J. took third with an 81 that included two birdies. Ethan Finkelstein of Yardley finished fourth with an 82, Jun Lee of York was fifth with an 84, Dylan Keopraseut of Emmaus was sixth with an 85 and Stephen Cain of Yardley was seventh with an 86.
   Rounding out the top 10 were three players tied for eighth at 88, including Christopher Myers of Yardley, Jack Romeo of Ambler and Luke Corcoran of Lansdale.
   Olivia Schwandt of Wilmington, Del. finished atop the girls 16-to-18 division with an 82. It was Schwandt’s second Junior Tour victory this fall. Isabella McCloskey of Princeton Junction, N.J. was the runnerup with an 87.
   The 13-to-15 division has produced some outstanding golf this fall and it took a 78 by Grace Lu of Edison, N.J. to edge Katherine Lu of Plainsboro, N.J. by a shot for the victory. It was Grace Lu’s first Junior Tour victory.
   Angelina Tolentino of Mount Laurel, N.J. and Sydney Yermish of Wynnewood, both of whose games  have taken great strides in 2017, finished third and fourth with respective scores of 81 and 84.
   Chaela Barnett of Churchville finished fifth with an 87, Megan Adelman of Bryn Mawr was sixth with an 88 and Claire Lu of Edison, N.J. and likely the sister of the division winner, was seventh with an 89.
   Nicholas Gross of Downingtown fired a 2-over 38 to edge Michael Maslanka of Taylor by a shot for top honors among the nine-holers. Gross will represent the Philadelphia Section PGA in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, an event that has quickly established itself as the official start of Masters week, coming on the Sunday before the first professional major championship of the year at Augusta National Golf Club.
   Daniel Shin of Horsham finished third with a 46, Hank Kancher of Philadelphia was fourth with a 52, Aaron Combs of Basking Ridge, N.J. was fifth with a 61 and Vanessa Newett of Gilbertsville was sixth with an 85.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Chugg finishes off magical week at Champions with U.S. Women's Mid-Am title

   The game means a lot to Kelsey Chugg and it’s always nice to see somebody who cares that much about golf hoisting a USGA championship trophy.
   The 26-year-old from Salt Lake City, Utah had a firm grip on the Mildred Prunaret Trophy – nobody does trophies better than the United States Golf Association – and a gold medal around her neck after she claimed a 3 and 1 victory over another golf lifer, Mary Jane Hiestand, 58 years young from Naples, Fla., in the final of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship Thursday at Champions Golf Club’s Cypress Creek Course in Houston.
   Chugg played college golf at Weber State. She has won the Utah Women’s Amateur four times. She is the membership director for the Utah Golf Association. That Mildred Prunaret Trophy will probably be a must-see item for half the people who play golf in the state of Utah for the next year. That’s what Chugg was excited about Thursday.
   “It’s just been a crazy week – I can’t believe I pulled it off,” Chugg told the USGA website. “This is really exciting for me to be able to bring this home for Utah and the golf community there.”
   Chugg was making her U.S. Women’s Mid-Am debut and the jitters showed in an opening-round 85 in qualifying. But she trusted her talent while carding an even-par 72 in the second round that got her into the match-play bracket.
   One by one she picked off good player after good player, including 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief in the round of 16 and Marissa Mar, who, along with Greenlief and Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur champion Katie Miller, was a co-medalist in qualifying, in the semifinals.
   While no Chugg match ever made it to the 18th hole, Hiestand, playing in her 43rd USGA championship, was pulling out close victories, wielding her putter to devastating effect.
   Hiestand called the 6,022-yard, par-72 Cypress Creek layout a “putter’s course,” and Chugg beat her at her own game Thursday.
   Hiestand grabbed a quick lead by winning the first hole with a par, but Chugg squared the match by taking the second hole with a par.
   The match turned on the par-4 third hole with Chugg missing the green and then chipping poorly, her ball still 38 feet from the hole. Hiestand was on in two, just outside of Chugg’s ball. Hiestand lagged her birdie putt four feet from the hole.
   Chugg got to see the line and she lined up her 38-footer for par and knocked it right in the cup. Naturally, the hole suddenly a little smaller after Chugg's make, Hiestand’s par putt slid by. It was a classic match-play turnaround with Hiestand looking at winning the hole and walking off the green 1-down. She was never able to get to all-square again.
   Chugg won the fifth hole with a par and the 10th hole with a par. When she dropped in a testy five-and-a-half footer for par at the par-5 13th, she was 4-up with five to play. Chugg made a double bogey on the 14th and sent her tee shot over the green on the par-3 16th and Hiestand won both holes to cut her deficit to 2-down.
   But when Hiestand missed her par putt on the 17th, she conceded Chugg’s short par putt and it was over.
   When Chugg finally stops staring at that Mildred Prunaret Trophy, when she finally takes that gold medal from around her neck, she’ll start to realize the value of all the exemptions she earned by capturing the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
   For the first time, the U.S. Women’s Mid-Am winner earns a spot in next year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, Tenn.? She’s in.
   And Chugg can ignore sweating out a U.S. Women’s Mid-Am qualifier for the next 10 years. She’ll probably help the Utah Golf Association run the thing.
   She can just show up next September at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis, head to the range and start hitting some balls.
   Oh, they’ll probably make her do some interviews as the defending champion and all. But she’ll have a starting time in the first round of qualifying and probably a little less of a case of jitters than she had at Champions.