The Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship, July 6-9, takes place again at Watertown Golf Club, which has hosted all but 11 of the 78 Junior Amateurs.
In 2019 Milford’s Ben James, 16, who had qualified for every Junior since he played his first as an 11-year-old, broke through and won handily over Gunnar Granito of New Canaan, 6 and 5. It was a breakthrough of sorts for Granito as well. He defeated medalist Chris Fosdick and young star Michael Hanratty on the way to his first final. (It was also James’ first final as well.)
James is expected to return in 2020, as is Hanratty and 2018 finalist Matt Doyle, though Fosdick, now at Florida Southern, and Granito, who has graduated from New Canaan High School, are not.
For James the Junior Amateur win was part of a remarkable year that also included victories at the Northern Junior, AJGA Killington, and New England Junior, as well as Rolex All-America honors, a third-place finish in the Connecticut Open and a spot on the victorious U.S. Junior Presidents Cup team in Australia.
James’s victory was in keeping with the championship’s history. Over the years it has identified, early on, some of the best players in Connecticut history: Dick Siderowf, Jeff Hedden, Brett Stegmaier, Mike Ballo, Jr., John VanDerLaan have all won the Junior. Stegmaier and VanDerLaan are both playing this year on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Watertown dates to 1898 when nine holes were built on the estate of Taft School founder Horace Dutton Taft, brother of President William Howard Taft. Watertown Golf Club was established there shortly after. In 1931 a second nine was built north of the school grounds. And between 1971 and 1973 a third nine designed by Geoffrey Cornish and Bill Robinson was added north of West Road and the original nine was converted to Taft School athletic fields. That stretch of holes includes the signature 12th, a short par 4 whose penalty area and out-of-bounds often invite disaster.
The Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship is open to all Connecticut junior golfers who have not reached their 19th birthday by the start of the event. The format comprises one round of stroke play followed by match play among the low thirty-two match play qualifiers. Two rounds of matches each day culminate in an 18-hole final.