As a sophomore at The Haverford School last fall, Samuel Walker was the medalist three times during the six mini-tournaments that make up the Inter-Ac League’s regular season, finishing fourth in the individual points standings compiled during the six events.
He flashed that ability again with a sparkling 3-under-par 67 at Pennsauken Country Club in South Jersey Wednesday as the Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour staged the last in its series of events giving players a chance to earn a spot in the Junior PGA Championship qualifying event, which will be held Monday at Concord Country Club.The Girls Junior PGA Championship and the Junior PGA Championship have expanded this year. In the past, each of the 41 PGA sections sent one boy and one girl to the national event, but this year each section will send two boys and two girls.
The Country Club of St. Albans in St. Albans, Mo. will host the Girls Junior PGA Championship July 18 to 21 and the Junior PGA Championship from July 31 to Aug. 1.
The Pennsauken event produced 23 more boys ages 13 to 18 and three from among the nine-holers advancing to next week’s qualifier. The qualifier for the girls, who don’t require a first round of qualifying, and the nine-holers will also be Monday a couple of miles up Route 202 from Concord at Penn Oaks Golf Club.
Walker of Radnor had six birdies on his scorecard over the 6,213-yard, par-70 Pennsauken layout for the day’s best score and a six-shot margin of victory in the 16-to-18 division.
Walker’s teammate at The Haverford School, senior Cal Buonocore of Newtown Square, Akhil Giri of Moorestown, N.J. and Richard Kline III of Kennett Square finished tied for second, each carding a 3-over 73.
Thomas Butler of Telford, Connor Kelleher of Clarks Summit, and R.J. VanTash of Lancaster shared fifth place 74. Ward McHenry of Spring City finished alone in eighth place at 75.
Malvern Prep junior Andrew Curran of Media, Jake McCloskey of West Chester and Hayden Moffat of Hatboro finished tied for ninth at 76.
Nikita Romanov of Wilmington, Del. headed the group of five players tied for 12th at 78. Romanov reached the quarterfinals of the recent Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Boys’ Championship, taking eventual champion Dawson Anders to the 18th hole before falling, 2-up. Joining Romanov at 78 were Akira Pavey of Dover, Del., Matthew Law of Yardley, Brandon Cassidy of Doylestown and Harrison Graham of Wenonah, N.J.
Three players – W. David Starnes of Kennett Square, Dylan Sterlacci of Downingtown and Joel Hark of Voorhees, N.J. -- grabbed the final three tickets to Concord from the 16-to-18 division, finishing tied for 17th at 79.
Dylan Gooneratne of Plymouth Meeting also had a fine round, matching par with a 70, to take top honors in the 13-to-15 division. Gooneratne had three birdies in claiming his fourth Junior Tour victory of the season.
Michael Mitnick of Linwood, N.J. was the runnerup with a 75. Matthew Hanzel of Sewell, N.J. finished third with a 76 and Logan Paczewski of Dallas was alone in fourth with a 77.
Davis Flannery, one of the top freshmen in the Central League last fall at Radnor, and Luke Watson of Royersford shared fifth place, each carding a 78.
Jacob Sokalsky of Garnet Valley and Hayden Greer of Moorestown, N.J. each carded a 79 and were the last two players out of the younger division to advance to the qualifier at Concord.
Jack Ross of Medford Lakes, N.J. finished alone in ninth with an 80. Rounding out the top 10 were Strath Haven’s Kevin Smith, like Flannery, part of a talented group in the Class of 2020 in the Central League, Alec Stern of Bryn Mawr and Roy Anderson of Chadds Ford, all of whom finished tied for 10th at 81.
Christina Carroll of Bear, Del., captured top honors in the girls 16-to-18 division with an 83 that featured two birdies. It was Carroll’s third Junior Tour win of the season. Cristea Park of Blue Bell was a shot behind Carroll in second with an 84.
Elise Glauser of Newark, Del. finished third with an 87 and Rose Witt of Moorestown, N.J. was fourth with a 108.
Kayla Gutierrez of Little Egg Harbor, N.J. birdied her first hole on her way to an 89 that gave her the victory in the 13-to-15 division. Olivia Strigh of Hammonton, N.J. was the runnerup, just two shots back of Gutierrez with a 91.
Ethan Trinh of Plainsboro, N.J. had a pair of birdies in an even-par 35 that gave him top honors among the nine-holers for his first career Junior Tour victory.
Matthew Normand of Lumberton, N.J. was the runnerup with a 39 and Jeffrey Homer of Wilmington grabbed the last ticket to Penn Oaks in taking third with a 42.
Matthew Homer – I’m guessing brother of Jeffrey, possibly twins since both are listed as Class of 2023 – was a shot behind Jeffrey Homer in fourth with a 43. Paul Reilly of West Creek, N.J was alone in fifth with a 51.
The next two finishers came from the Gooneratne contingent from Plymouth Meeting as Fiona Gooneratne was sixth with a 52 and what appears to be younger sister Rhianna Gooneratne taking seventh with a 53. Dominic Musso of Florence, N.J. rounded out the field of nine-holers, finishing eighth with a 62.