STRATFORD — Connecticut’s best junior golfers were on display one final time on Tuesday. All together on one team, the group made one final emphatic statement to the rest of New England.
Connecticut repeated as New England Junior champions, winning the 50th edition of the championship by 17 strokes over Massachusetts at Mill River Country Club.
“It’s so much easier said than done, to collectively play well,” Greenwich’s Jackson Fretty said. “We all played really well, that was the important thing. I’m just happy to be part of something special. It’s such a tough event, a marathon.”
It was the same margin of victory as last year for Connecticut, but was only 36 holes because inclement weather washed away the final round. Play was stopped this Tuesday as well, but the tournament was able to be completed despite the rain.
Five of the state golfers finished tied for sixth or better, led by Milford’s Ben James, who repeated as champion with a 7-under-par total of 203.
“They are really talented players who have played a lot of competition, thrive on competition, and are accustomed to shooting under par,” CSGA executive director Mike Moraghan said. “We are in a cycle right now where junior golf in Connecticut is really good.”
Girls played in the competition for the first time. Rhode Island won by a whopping 27 strokes over Connecticut. Allison Paik of Rhode Island (4-over 220) was the medalist.
“It’s an honor to be selected by Rhode Island in this inaugural event. It’s such a prestigious event. This feels amazing, to etch my name into history basically,” said Paik, who has verbally committed to play at Columbia in 2020.
There were only three golfers for each girls’ team, while the top five scores out of seven counted for the boys.
Connecticut finished at 15-under 1035, while Massachusetts came in at 2-over 1052. New Hampshire finished a distant third — 44 shots behind Connecticut.
This was James’ fourth victory in the last two months in what has been an impressive summer for the 16-year-old Milford resident.
“I think Ben James has to be in the conversation for being the greatest junior golfer in Connecticut history,” Moraghan said. “I don’t know if any junior has had a better summer than Ben had.”
Said teammate Chris Fosdick: “Ben’s game this summer has been electric. He has made a name for himself as the No. 1 junior in Connecticut. His game is so consistent, he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He is arguably one of the hottest junior players in the country right now.”
James still has one last event — a pretty big one: the Boys Junior PGA Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida. A spot on the 12-member U.S. Junior Presidents Cup Team is on the line.
“That would be amazing, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” James said about the Junior Presidents Cup. “Everything is a little weak right now. I need to sharpen everything up a little bit. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a reward in itself just to be there.”
Fosdick bogeyed the 17th hole Tuesday to fall two shots behind James. He reached the par-5 18th finale in two and just missed a 50-foot putt for eagle. Fosdick made birdie to finish in second place for the third straight year.
“There are some things I can tighten up, but finishing a tournament at 6-under going into college feels good,” said Fosdick, who will enroll at Florida Southern later this week.
Fretty, who will play at Princeton, finished fifth (1-under 209), marking his third straight year in the top five.
“To be honest, looking back on my junior career, what meant the most were the team victories. It’s one thing to play well by yourself, another to be part of a collective group that brings it on the same day,” said Fretty, who led Greenwich High to back-to-back CIAC Division I state titles this past spring.
James Imai of Massachusetts, who won this tournament in 2017, tied for second with Fosdick at 204. Bryson Richards of Vermont placed fourth (207). Matt Doyle of Madison and Alex Gu of Darien finished in a four-way tie for sixth place at 1-over 211.
All three girls from Connecticut finished in the top 10, led by Liz Garfield, who finished fifth thanks to a final-round 73.
New England Junior Championship
(at Mill River CC)
Team results (top five out of seven scores count for boys, all three count for girls)
Boys: 1. Connecticut, 1035; 2. Massachusetts, 1052; 3. New Hampshire, 1079; 4. Vermont, 1102; 5. Maine, 1106; 6. Rhode Island, 1141.
Girls: 1. Rhode Island, 443; 2. Connecticut, 470; 3 (tie). New Hampshire and Maine, 493; 5. Massachusetts, 524.
Boys: 1. Ben James (CT), 203; 2 (tie) Chris Fosdick (CT) and James Imai (Mass.), 204; 4. Bryson Richards (Vt), 207; 5. Jackson Fretty (CT), 209; 6 (tie) Matt Doyle (CT), Alex Gu (CT), Caleb Manuel (Maine), Matt Gover (NH), 211; other CT finishers: Alex Aurora, 224; Gunnar Granito, 234.
Girls: 1. Allison Paik (RI), 220; 2. Gianna Papa (RI), 228; 3. Shivano Vora (NH), 232; 4. Lauren Dohoney (RI), 233; 5. Liz Garfield (CT), 236; 6. Mia Hornberger (Maine), 240; 7. Mia Dang (Mass.), 241; 8. Alex Fox (CT), 243; 9. Madeleine Hong (CT), 247.