Two-time defending girls champion Kaitlyn Lees, a senior at Agnes Irwin, and reigning boys champion John Updike, a junior at Malvern Prep, will have their work cut out for them if they hope to successfully repeat as a competitive group of junior golfers opened play in the Pennsylvania Junior Championships Monday at Hershey Country Club’s East Course.
Jennifer Cleary, who plays out of Applecross Country Club and plays scholastically at Tower Hill in Delaware, was the runnerup to Lees a year ago. But she fired a solid 1-over-par 72 Monday to grab a one-shot lead.
Lauren Freyvogel, who finished fourth in the PIAA Class AAA Championship as a sophomore at Pine Richland last fall, and reigning Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia Junior champion Rylie Heflin, who plays out of Hartefeld National Golf Club, are tied for second, just a shot behind Cleary at 2-over 73.
Katie James, a member of Shady Side Academy’s PIAA Class AAA championship team last fall, and Elizabeth Beek, the phenom who is just a seventh-grader at Wissahickon Middle School, are tied for fourth at 5-over 76. Beek was the Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour’s 13-to-15 Player of the Year in 2016.
Lees, who plays out of Philadelphia Country Club and who won her second career Inter-Ac League title last month, is alone in sixth at 77.
Cleary was steady on the front nine with a bogey at two and a birdie at four to make the turn at even-par. Birdies at 12 and 15 around a bogey at the 14th had her 1-under for the round before a bogey-bogey finish left her at 1-over.
Lees made seven bogeys and was only able to put one birdie on her card at the sixth. But she never let the round get away from her by making worse than bogey somewhere and has often saved her best stuff for the East Course at Hershey.
Jessica Myers of Oakmont Country Club is another shot back in seventh at 78 and White Manor Country Club’s Samantha Yao, the PIAA Class AAA runnerup as a sophomore at Conestoga last fall, is alone in eighth place at 79.
Whitemarsh Valley Country Club’s Casey Oppenheimer, the Philadelphia Junior Tour’s 16-to-18 Player of the Year in 2016, heads a group of three players tied for ninth at 80.
Oppenheimer was joined at that figure by Madie Smithco of Olde Stonewall Golf Club and Lydia Swan of Green Meadows Golf Club.
Notre Dame senior Brianna Marmorstein, playing of Llanerch Country Club, and Radnor sophomore June Kim, playing out of Applecross, are tied for 12th at 81.
Leading the way among the boys is reigning PIAA Class AA champion Chris Tanabe, who fired a sparkling 3-under 68 on the East Course at Hershey to grab a two-shot lead. Tanabe, who plays out of Sewickley Heights Golf Club, won the state title last fall as a senior at Quaker Valley.
The Haverford School’s Andreas Aivazoglou, playing out of Rolling Green Golf Club, and Palmer Jackson of Hannastown Golf Club are tied for second, each carding a 1-under 70. White Manor Country Club’s Cole Berger matched par with a 71 and is alone in fourth place.
Tanabe really got it going right out of the gate Monday with four birdies on the front nine at one, five, six and nine. A bogey at eight was the only blemish in a sizzling 3-under 33 on the outward nine at Hershey East. He birdied the 12th to get to 4-under before a bogey at 16 dropped him back to 3-under.
Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Conor McGrath, the qualifying medalist in last week’s Golf Association of Philadelphia Junior Boys’ Championship at Spring-Ford Country Club, heads a group of three players tied for fifth at 1-over 72. He was joined at that figure by Joseph Parrini, a Central York standout who earned a trip to a sectional U.S. Open qualifier with a solid showing in a local qualifier at his home course, The Country Club of York.
The third member of the trio at 72 is Henry Bartony III of Butler Country Club.
Updike, playing out of Aronimink Golf Club, is one of three players tied for eighth at 2-over 73. Updike has been one of the most consistent performers in the Inter-Ac League in each of his first two years at Malvern Prep.
He is joined at that figure by Jason Li, who finished fourth in the PIAA Class AA Championship as a senior at Sewickley Academy, and Justin Griffith of Wildwood Golf Club.
Heading the group of nine players tied for 11th at 3-over 74 are Radnor junior Jake Calamaro and Ryan Tall, the Central League champion as a junior at Conestoga last fall.
Calamaro earned a trip to next month’s U.S. Junior Amateur at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan. with a 2-under 69 at Carlisle Country Club in a qualifier earlier this month.
Darren Nolan of Talamore Country Club fired a 3-under 69 to grab a three-shot lead in the Junior/Junior Boys division. David Fuhrer II, of one of the first families of western Pennsylvania golf out of Oakmont, is three shots back in second with an even-par 72.
Molly Gregor of Huntingdon Valley carded a 79 and has a four-shot lead in the Junior/Junior Girls division. Hannah Barrett of Chambersburg Country Club is in second place with an 83.
In the boys team competition, Updike, his Malvern Prep teammate Matt Davis, and their Inter-Ac rival Case Hummer IV, a sophomore at Episcopal Academy, gave Aronimink a two-shot lead over Wildwood with a 226 total.
In addition to Updike’s 73, Davis, who will be a senior for the Friars this fall, had a 75 and Hummer, who will be a sophomore for the defending Inter-Ac champion Churchmen this fall, had a 78. Wildwood posted a 228.
It appears the girls team trophy is headed for Route 322 in Chester County as Cleary, Kim and Applecross look like they’re unopposed in the competition.