(Ben James fires 67 to capture Nick Pahoulis Medal and #1 seed in the Junior Amateur at Watertown)
You can play the Connecticut Junior Amateur until you’re 19, but on Monday it was two 15-year-olds who made news at Watertown Golf Club in the stroke play qualifier of the 77th Junior.
Great River’s lanky Ben James, who will play next week in the U.S. Junior Amateur, birdied the final three holes to shoot 67 and lead all stroke-play qualifiers. James hit two par-5s with mid-irons, eagling one of them—the first—to go along with that torrid finish. After eagling the par-5 first, James struggled (for him) bogeying the fifth and double-bogeying the 11th to slip to plus one.
He then birdied five of the final seven holes to reach four under.
“I got my stroke better,” said James with a smile after the birdie-birdie-birdie finish. “I’m happy with today. Tomorrow (match play) is going to be completely different. But I made a game plan today and stuck to it.”
James’ final birdie was approximately the length of the other 15-year-old who had parents and players alike talking—and grinning. At 5’5” and weighing 97 pounds was Hop Meadow’s cheerful Jack Bosworth, who made 6 birdies, a couple of them bombs, to shoot 69 and join the group of five who broke par.
More important, perhaps, Jack beat older brother James, who usually thumps him, by ten shots.
The putts were rolling,” said Bosworth, sounding like a veteran, while at the same time acknowledging that he’s never shot in the 60s in competition before. “I had a few 20, 25-footers that helped me a lot. I had six birdies and probably 29 putts.”
Which would help anyone a lot.
“When I came in my brother said, ‘What did you shoot?’ I said, ‘I shot 69.” And he goes, ‘How?’ He beats me every day by a good five shots. Today I got him! I played pretty well.”
Another Jack, Jack Woods of Ridgewood Golf Club also shot 69 and, and until James finished in the final group Monday, looked like he would share the Nick Pahoulis Medal with the younger Bosworth.
Aside from James and Bosworth, it was a case of round up the usual suspects.
Alexander Gu. Jack Maguire. Alex Aurora. Justin Mathew. Chris Fosdick.
Gu and Maguire shot 70 (-1), to complete the list of players under par. Aurora, Mathew and Fosdick shot even par 71.
Scores were not universally low. Watertown’s firm and fast 6423 yards mystified many of the others. Defending Champion Will Wilson of Wee Burn Country Club, for example, shot 82 and missed a generous cut at plus seven 78, which played of for a single spot. Tommy Dallahan, Cole Hahn and Michael Walling were among others who have played well this spring, but were cut today.
For Fosdick, it was a round that matched the transformation his game has undergone this year. He finished third in Division1 championship, then won the state’s first High School Open thanks, he says, to a more “mature” attitude in competition. He demonstrated that today.
Three over on the front, with a lost-ball double-bogey on the par-5 seventh, he made four birdies against only one bogey on the back, beginning with the 12th, where he tried to drive the short par 4, left his tee shot just short and chipped to within 3 feet. He followed with birdies on the 13th, 16th and 17th to, as he put it, “climb out of a hole.”
He’ll play Matt Camel of Round Hill tomorrow. Camel comes off of a remarkable AJGA win in Columbus Indiana. Camel set the course record, tied the AJGA record for score in a 54-hole event (-19) and made holes-in-one in each of the second and third rounds of the event.
“It was my week I guess,” said Camel. The question is, will this be his week, too?