- Golfer Benefits
FITCHBURG, Massachusetts – Morgan Smith (Vesper CC) is making golf look easy these days. A round of 70 (-2), which included five birdies, earned her co-medalist honors at U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Qualifying at Oak Hill CC on Monday.
Earlier in the day, also at Oak Hill CC, four of the five players to advance to the U.S. Junior Amateur were from Massachusetts. Weston Jones (Charter Oak CC), Aidan LeBlanc (MIAA/Ferncroft CC) who survived a late shank, and Justin Hastings (Cayman Islands) split medalist honors with matching 67’s.
Morning Round: U.S. Junior Amateur Qualifying
The first player to post a score in red numbers happened to be the one with the most people pulling for him at Oak Hill CC on Monday. While Patrick Ginnity (Northern Spy CC) doesn’t have any official playing affiliation with Oak Hill, he is certainly familiar with the course thanks to his role with the outside operations team.
“So I work here. Bucky is awesome. The membership is awesome. I can come and play sometimes. And my high school team plays here in the fall. So I’ve played here a lot.”
Upon hearing that his score of 69 earned him one of the five spots into the U.S. Junior Am, Ginnity high-fived and embraced with Bucky Buchanan (Head Golf Professional, Oak Hill CC).
“Just unbelievable. Not only to qualify for a USGA event, but to do it at a course that I’m very familiar with makes it even more special.” said Ginnity.
Aidan LeBlanc (MIAA/Ferncroft CC) made the turn at 2-over par, and was sitting well outside the cut line on Monday. Playing the front 9 as his second 9, LeBlanc took no time to make up ground, making birdies on 1, 4 and 5. What happened next was nothing short of amazing.
Playing the 7th hole, LeBlanc hit a nice drive and was standing over his second shot on the easily-reachable par 5. That’s when the dreaded shank entered the scene. After his ball made the early right-hand turn, it came to rest 75 yards from the hole, but still in play.
A short wedge shot is probably the last thing someone fighting the shanks wants to see. That is anyone but Aidan LeBlanc, as his wedge from 75 yards out found the bottom of the cup for eagle. Two easy pars to finish the round helped earn him co-medalist honors.
Justin Hastings (Cayman Islands) is a name not many New Englanders know. Thanks to some other events in the area, the San Diego St. golf team member figured he’d attempt to qualify for the U.S. Junior Am while on the east coast. And that he did. Thanks to a blistering 31 on his first nine, Hastings was able to absorb some late bogeys and still earn co-medalist honors.
𝙏𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙘𝙡𝙤𝙨𝙚 to another birdie for Justin Hastings (Cayman Islands) at U.S. Junior Amateur Qualifying at Oak Hill CC today. Hastings, a rising sophomore at @AztecMGolf, made the turn in -4, and is currently playing his second nine.
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) June 27, 2022
Seeing the name Weston Jones (Charter Oak CC) at the top of the leaderboard was a surprise to nobody. Five birdies highlighted a stress-free 67, which was good for co-medalist honors. This will be Jones’ third appearance in a USGA Championship, having advanced to last year’s U.S. Amateur Championship (Oakmont CC) and U.S. Junior Amateur Championship (CC of NC).
John Broderick (Dedham Country & Polo Club) will also be making his return to the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. Coming off an appearance at the Northeast Amateur last week, Broderick seemed to have no trouble on Monday, making 4 birdies en route to a 2-under 68.
QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
Weston Jones (Sudbury, MA); (-3) 67
Justin Hastings (Cayman Islands); (-3) 67
Aidan LeBlanc (Beverly, MA); (-3) 67
John Broderick (Wellesley, MA); (-2) 68
Patrick Ginnity (Fitchburg, MA); (-1) 69
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Aidan Odonovan (Somerville, MA); (E) 70*
Aiden Azevedo (Haverhill, MA); (E) 70**
*Advanced with birdie on second playoff hole
**Advanced with par on third playoff hole
Afternoon Round: U.S. Girls Junior Amateur Qualifying
Many would think that it’s easy to ride hot play in golf. But that’s not how Morgan Smith (Vesper CC) saw it. Coming off an impressive 12-stroke victory at the New England Women’s Amateur, Smith still felt the pressure. With three coveted spots to the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship on the line, Smith simply concentrated on doing her best.
“It almost makes it harder, because now there’s like a little bit more of an expectation for you to do well. And obviously, I’m trying to keep that momentum going. But you never know, it’s a hard game. So just trying to do my best. That was my goal going into today. And, you know, it turned out pretty good.”
Getting off to a slow start makes it nearly impossible to qualify at one-round qualifiers. After seven holes, Smith was 2-over par and in danger of falling out of contention early.
“I got off to a little bit of a bumpy start I was two over through seven. Then I birdied eight which was good, and birdie on 10 got it back to even and then birdied 13. And then just parred out from there. Well, I birdied 18, but just steady golf after that (slow start).” added Smith
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Also shooting 70 and earning co-medalist honors was Consuela Guo (New Zealand) who has faced quite the journey over the past few years. Having been on lockdown in New Zealand since 2019, this is the first year that Guo has been able to compete in the United States again.
“Since I was in New Zealand, there was locked down and everything, and I couldn’t come to America for three years. My goal this year was just to qualify for the U.S. Girls’ Junior and you know and now I’ve (done that). So I’ve finished basically, and I can go back to New Zealand now.”
Guo’s round saw a little bit of everything with birdies, pars, bogeys, and a double-bogey. Luckily, she saved the best for last. On the closing par-5, she made an eagle, which guarenteed a spot in the U.S. Girls’ Junior, a Championship she’s dreamed about for the past three years.
“On the last hole, I had an eagle, which I chipped in from like 42 meters and it was a great finish like that because I thought I had to be like three or four under to be able to qualify. So I mean, today was just a big surprise for me.”
Rounding out the trio to qualify was Emily Luo (Danville, CA) who also made quite the journey to Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Thanks to another amateur event on the east coast, and some lucky timing, Monday’s qualifier fit nicely into Luo’s schedule. And it’s a good thing it did. Playing in the final group of the day, Luo needed a birdie on 18 to advance to the Girls’ Junior, and got it.
All three players to qualify for the U.S. Girls’ Junior made birdie-or-better on the 18th hole. That seemed to be the difference as only one other player made birdie on the closing hole. Next up is a trip to Kentucky next month for the Championship Proper.
QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
Consuela Guo (New Zealand); (-2) 70
Morgan Smith (Westford, MA); (-2) 70
Emily Luo (Danville, CA); (+1) 73
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Emily Koo (Sherman Oaks, CA); (+2) 74
Caroline Chung (Placentia, CA); (+3) 75*
*Advanced with birdie on first playoff hole
The Junior Amateur Championship was established by the USGA in 1948 to pit the best junior golfers in the country head to head. In 2017, the age limit of the championship was altered to allow anyone age 19 or younger to compete.
Beginning in 2017, the USGA has also given the U.S. Junior Champion an exemption into the following year’s U.S. Open Championship. Wellesley native Michael Thorbjornsen earned a U.S. Open exemption in 2019 after winning the 2018 U.S. Junior.
This year’s Junior Championship will take place at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon, from July 25-30. The championship proper consists of 264 golfers, which cuts to 64 for match play. The championship match is contested over 36 holes.
The USGA formed the inaugural U.S. Girls’ Junior in 1949, one year after the Junior Amateur began. As of 2016, the field is open to female golfers younger than 19. The Girls’ Junior Champion is exempt for the following year’s U.S. Women’s Open Championship.
The 2022 U.S. Girls’ Junior will take place at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Kentucky, from July 18-23 with a field size of 156.
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