HAMDEN >> Mark Turner is already committed to playing college golf at Dartmouth University to start in the fall of 2018. For now, he will take a gap year to strengthen his game in the amateur ranks.
The graduate of St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts took a big step Wednesday towards making a name for himself. He birdied the final two holes at New Haven Country Club to win the 16th Northern Junior by a stroke.
“I wasn’t feeling good at the beginning of the week. I was kind of under the weather, my joints were hurting and I thought I had Lyme disease or something, but I’m feeling better now,” said Turner, who will turn 18 next month.
Turner actually birdied three of the final four holes to put himself into the winner’s circle, finishing at 4-under 136 for the 36-hole event. He did get a little help from his former St. John’s teammate Chris Francoeur.
The golfer bound for the University of Rhode Island led after the first round Tuesday, shooting a 4-under-par 66. He held at least a share of the lead for most of Wednesday, even after bogeying 13 and 14. But he made a double-bogey on the par-3 17th.
Even a birdie on the par-5 finishing hole wouldn’t be enough. Turner smoked a 3-wood from 240 yards out onto the back of the green, then nearly holed his eagle putt from about 35 feet.
“I hit it in there close on 17 and the putt dropped,” Turner said. “That’s usually a hybrid for me but uphill and into the wind, I choked down on a 3-wood a little bit.”
Francouer and Alex Jamieson, also of Massachusetts, finished tied for second at 3-under 137.
Madeline Jin of Belle Mead, New Jersey hit all 18 greens in her even-par round of 70, good enough to win the girls championship by two strokes over Rylie Heflin.
“It was my first win in awhile, Jim said. “I don’t like to really know other people’s scores when I’m playing. I play best when I don’t know what’s going on.”
The Northern Junior had nearly 140 players tee it up from 23 states, countries and provinces. What started as a tournament on the state Junior PGA schedule in 2002 to honor the late Stan Trojanowski has turned into a noteworthy event that juniors from all over are anxious to play in.
There were approximately 300 applicants and the tournament has become a 501C3 to make it a non-profit organization.
“It started out as a tournament to honor my grandfather (Trojanowski). Now everyone you see (volunteering) is connected to junior golf,” said tournament director Brent Paladino. “We’ve tried every year to get better and better. We want to make this the best junior golf tournament in the country.”
Ben James of Milford was the low state performer, boy or girl, finishing in fifth place (139). He was a Register All-Area golf selection as a seventh grader at Hamden Hall this past spring.
“It’s the closest tournament from my house and my high school home course. I know the course well and it’s a big deal to represent my school,” said James, 14, who has already verbally committed to UConn. “The competition is amazing. The goal was definitely to win, but I’m not disappointed how I finished. I think I played pretty well.”
Other All-Area golfers competing this week were Chris Fosdick of Xavier (4-over 144, tied for 17th), Charlie Csejka of Orange (8-over 148, tied for 31st place) and Alex Aurora of Hamden (12-over 152, tied for 54th).
Jin, 16, may play better when she doesn’t know how the field is doing, but with leaderboard updates around the back nine, the rising high school junior knew she was tied for second on the 17th hole.
“I knew I had to birdie the last hole to even put myself in position to win, and so I did (an 8-footer),” said Jin, who was playing in the Northern Junior for the first time. “(The course) plays really long. These greens were so hard this week. I couldn’t get comfortable. This is a very challenging, rally beautiful course in great condition.”
Sarah Houle, the CIAC girls golf state champion from Sandy Hook, finished tied for 10th place, shooting a 73 Wednesday for a 151 two-round total.