A lot of good players can put together a good round or two. But the true test of a really good golfer is consistency over the long haul. The stats that the professional tours put out bear that out, even some of the more abstract sabermetric stuff that they keep track of.
When the Philadelphia Section PGA got together for its end-of-the-year Junior Tour Awards Dinner Dec. 2 at Talamore Country Club, the players who captured Graham Company Player of the Year honors and Sam Penecale Scoring Average titles were the ones who played at a high level nearly every time he or she teed it up.
The Graham Company is the title sponsor of the Junior Tour, which is doing a tremendous job developing junior golfers in this region. The Scoring Average titles are named in memory of Sam Penecale, the former head pro at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club who, like so many of his fellow Philly Section club pros over the years, made junior golf a priority.
In the two girls divisions, the identity of the Graham Company Player of the Year and the Sam Penecale Scoring Average Leader were the same person.
In the 16-to-18 division, that was Grace Hickey of Downingtown. Hickey played 17 rounds in 15 events and had a scoring average of 88.5. She won six times, had 11 birdies and had a low round of 84.
That 84 gave her a tie for first in the Junior Tour stop at Wilmington Country Club. Other highlights of Hickey’s season included a win at Chesapeake Bay Golf Club with an 88, a victory at Wyncote Golf Club with an 86 and a win at Bluestone Country Club with an 85. Hickey saved her best stuff for some of the toughest courses the Junior Tour played.
For the second straight year, the 13-to-15 Graham Company Player of the Year belonged to Elizabeth Beek of Blue Bell, who added the Sam Penecale Scoring Average Leader title this season.
Beek, a seventh-grader at Wissahickon Middle School, played in 12 events and averaged 79.55 in 12 rounds. Averaging less than 80 is pretty impressive at her age. She won 11 of the 12 events she played and had 12 birdies and an eagle.
Beek came out of the gate last March with back-to-back victories, firing a 76 at Sea Oaks Golf Club and a 77 at Frog Hollow Golf Club. She won at Pine Meadows Golf Club with a 73 and captured the Junior Tour Championship with a 73 at Commonwealth National Golf Club.
I couldn’t hang around to see the actual story, but a recent episode of “Inside Golf” on NBC Sports Philadelphia teased its teaching segment from Talamore head pro Lou Guzzi and mentioned that Beek is one of his star students.
The boys 16-to-18 Graham Company Player of the Year award went to Alec Ryden of Moorestown, N.J. Ryden had seven wins in 27 starts that included 31 rounds. He had a low round of 68, one of two Junior Tour rounds he had in the 60s, and piled up 61 birdies.
Ryden carded the 68 in a victory at Chisel Creek Golf Club. He won at Morgan Hill Golf Course with a 75, triumphed at Scotland Run Golf Course with a 71, and took top honors in a Precision Pro Golf Open event at Philmont Country Club with rounds of 69 and 76 for a 145 total.
The Sam Penecale Scoring Average Leader among the older guys was Caleb Ryan of Norristown. Ryan, who is home-schooled through Commonwealth Connections Academy and plays high school golf for Norristown High, played 24 rounds in 18 Junior Tour events with a scoring average of 74.16.
It is quite an accomplishment among a very deep and talented group of older guys who tee it up in the Junior Tour events. Ryan won six times, had 71 birdies and played the par-5s in 13-under par.
Ryan fired a 69 for a victory at Bellamor Golf Club, a 73 in a win at Chesapeake Bay, a 71 to take top honors at Bluestone, and was the runnerup in the Junior Tour Championship at Commonwealth National with a 69.
Ryan’s solid play on the Junior Tour set the stage for another strong fall of scholastic golf as he reached the PIAA Class AAA Championship as a junior for the second straight year, finishing in a tie for 19th at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort. He finished fourth against many of his Junior Tour rivals in the District One Class AAA Championship at Turtle Creek Golf Club.
The boys 13-to-15 Graham Company Player of the Year was Dylan Gooneratne, a District One qualifier as a freshman for Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
Gooneratne teed it up in 28 Junior Tour events, completing 32 rounds, and won six times. He had a low round of 70 and had 36 birdies, averaging 1.12 birdies per round.
The 70 came in a win at Pennsauken Country Club. He claimed a victory at Chesapeake Bay with a 74, topped the field with a 72 at Paxon Hollow Country Club and was a winner in the Junior Tour Championship at Commonwealth National with a 73.
The Sam Penecale Scoring Average Leader among the 13-to-15 boys was Stephen Lorenzo of Lower Gwynedd, who, I’m pretty sure, is a La Salle High guy.
Lorenzo played in 14 events, completing 19 rounds, with an outstanding scoring average of 76.0. He had two wins and made 30 birdies with a low round of 71.
Lorenzo was particularly tough in a couple of the two-day Precision Pro Golf Open events, finishing second at Hickory Valley Golf Club with rounds of 75 and 73 for a 148 total and also claiming runnerup honors at Makefield Highlands Golf Club with a pair of 73s for a 146 total. His 71 came in a victory at Wyncote Golf Club and he had a 75 in a runnerup finish at Bluestone.
The Graham Company Player of the Year among the nine-holers was Benjamin Saggers, a seventh-grader at the Saints Philip and James School from West Chester. Saggers was the winner in half of the 30 events he teed it up in, claiming 15 victories. He completed 33 rounds, with a low round of 35. Saggers had 13 birdies and an eagle.
Among his victories were one at Morgan Hill with a 38, one at Bear Trap Dunes with a 35, one at Downingtown Country Club with a 39 and one at Skippack Golf Course with a 38.
Saggers, representing Applecross Country Club, was also the runnerup to Joshua Ryan, younger brother of Caleb, in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior-Junior Championship at Phoenixville Country Club.
The Sam Penecale Scoring Average Leader among the nine-holers was Matthew Normand of Lamberton, N.J. Normand had an average of 40.64 while teeing it up in 11 events and completing 12 rounds. He won five times, recorded six birdies and had a low round of 39.
Normand had a 39 in a victory at Ballamor, he won at Frog Hollow with a 40, finished first with a 40 at Bala Golf Club and was the runnerup in the Junior PGA Championship at Penn Oaks Golf Club with nines of 39 and 41 for an 80.
The Junior Tour also handed out college scholarships, which were earned in conjunction with last summer’s Harry Hammond Invitational, held at Penn Oaks, where Hammond is the Director of Golf. Hammond, a PGA Master Professional, has been a force in promoting junior golf in the Philadelphia Section, including a 29-year stint as the Section’s Junior Golf Chairman.
Players who teed it up at Penn Oaks submitted essays and the scholarship winners were announced at the Junior Tour Awards Dinner.
Topping the list among the boys was Connor Bennink, a junior at Unionville who received a $750 scholarship. Bennink had himself quite a week in the PIAA Championships at Heritage Hills this fall. After finishing tied for fourth in the individual Class AAA competition, Bennink helped Ches-Mont League and District One champion Unionville capture the PIAA Class AAA team crown.
Drew Steinmetz of Gilbertsville, a junior at The Hill School, and Simon Asadoorian of Richboro, a District One qualifier as a senior at Council Rock South this fall, were each awarded a $375 scholarship.
Among the girls, Savanna Haas of Pottstown received a $750 scholarship, Georgia Naples of West Chester received a $500 scholarship and Jessica McClellan of Freeland and Amanda Jones of Newtown Square, a sophomore on the Episcopal Academy golf team, each received a $125 scholarship.