Two of District One’s top returning players, Spring-Ford’s Ben Pochet, who claimed the Class AAA district individual title as a junior last fall, and Radnor’s Jake Calamaro earned tickets to the U.S. Junior Amateur in separate qualifiers Monday.
Pochet fired a 2-under-par 70 at Makefield Highlands Golf Club in Yardley to grab the last of three berths available in the qualifier administered by the Golf Association of Philadelphia.
Calamaro, a PIAA Class AAA East Regional qualifier as a sophomore last fall, carded a 2-under 69 at Carlisle Country Club to earn one of just two berths available in the qualifier administered by the Pennsylvania Golf Association.
The U.S. Junior Amateur will be held July 17 to 22 at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan. Last summer, recent Methacton graduate Kyle Vance, a two-time District One champion, qualified for match play in the U.S. Junior Amateur at the Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. and was ousted in the first round.
Pochet was the only local player to advance from Makefield Highlands.
Medalist honors went to Ryan Lee of Norwood, N.J. who fired a sizzling 5-under 67 over the 6,680-yard, par-72 Makefield Highlands layout. Lee, who attends Old Tappan High School, capped his spectacular round by blasting a 3-wood to eight feet on the 283-yard, par-4 13th hole at Makefield Highlands and dropping the putt for an eagle.
Pochet, who has committed to Drexel, shared second place with David Morgan of Naples, Fla., who matched Pochet’s 2-under 70.
Qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur was shortened from 36 holes to 18 holes this year.
Pochet offset bogeys at three and six with birdies at the fifth and ninth holes to make the turn at even-par 36 Monday. He got it to 2-under with back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12. He lost a shot with a bogey at 17, but got it back with a clutch birdie at the 18th that sealed the deal.
“I’ve never played well in these qualifiers, so it’s finally nice to have pulled through,” Pochet told the GAP website. “I’ve been looking for this confidence in my game with a ton of golf to be played coming up. I’m thrilled.”
Cole Kemmerer, who helped Episcopal Academy capture the Inter-Ac League championship as a junior last fall, is the first alternate after carding a solid 1-under 71. Kemmerer, who plays out of Waynesborough Country Club, finished third in the Inter-Ac’s individual tournament, the Bert Linton Invitational, which was held at Aronimink Golf Club last fall.
The second alternate is Conor McGrath of Huntingdon Valley Country Club, who also had a 1-under 71.
Malvern Prep’s Matt Davis, who plays out of Aronimink, also carded a 1-under 71, but lost out in the playoff for the alternate spots.
Among some of the other Inter-Ac standouts who teed it up at Makefield Highlands, Brian Isztwan, the Penn Charter senior who led the points standings from the league’s six regular-season mini-tournaments, had a 76, The Haverford School’s David Hurly also had a 76, Hurly’s fellow Ford Andreas Aivazoglou had a 77 and Kemmerer’s teammate on the Episcopal Academy championship team and a fellow Waynesborough player Jon Nolan Perry had a 79.
Pope John Paul II’s J.T. Spina, the Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour 16-to-18 Player of the Year in 2016 who finished tied for third in the PIAA Class AAA Championship last fall, was another player who checked in with a 76.
Calamaro’s teammates on Radnor’s Central League championship team last fall and on the Raiders’ 2015 PIAA Class AAA team champions, David Colleran Jr. and Michael Sydnes, each carded a 78. Colleran, a member at Overbrook Golf Club, is the reigning GAP Junior Boys’ champion.
Nikita Romanov, the Philadelphia Junior Tour’s 13-to-15 division Player of the Year in 2016 from Wilmington, Del., had a solid 2-over 74. Strath Haven sophomore Kevin Smith posted a 77. Norristown’s Ryan brothers, Caleb, a PIAA Class AAA Championship qualifier as a sophomore last fall, and Joshua came in at 82 and 84, respectively. Bishop Shanahan’s Ryan Conners, who shared second place with Vance behind Pochet at the District One Class AAA Championship last fall, had an 85.
Out at Carlisle, Calamaro, a little left-hander, nearly had medalist honors to himself as he made birdies at three, 10, 14 and 15 to get it to 4-under before a double bogey at the 16th left him at 2-under. He shared medalist honors with Mark Goetz of Greensburg, who matched Calamaro’s 2-under 69.
Calamaro played in the same group with Pochet at last fall’s District One Championship at Turtle Creek Golf Club and he putted the eyes out of it.
The first alternate from Carlisle is Austin Barbin of Elkton, Md., a regular on the Philadelphia Junior Tour who carded a 1-under 70. Barbin earned a ticket to last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur at The Honors Course when he qualified along with Vance a little closer to home at Chesapeake Bay Golf Club in Rising Sun, Md.
Michael Brennan of Leesburg, Va., who posted an even-par 71, is the second alternate.