HAMDEN >> Will Bernstein will be following in his brother Sam’s footsteps by attending Yale University this fall and playing for the Bulldogs’ golf team.
Will has plenty of game like his brother did. In his final junior tournament Wednesday at New Haven Country Club, Bernstein birdied the last hole to win the 13th annual Northern Junior Tournament by a stroke over four golfers.
“It’s nice to end on a high note after, from my perspective, so many close losses where I could have won,” said Bernstein, 18, who shot 1-under 139 for the 36-hole tournament. “It’s nice to have that feeling of winning and taking that to college and transition into the college game.”
Chris Simione, Eric Austin, Evan Grenus and Brock Kovach all finished tied for second at even-par 140. Simione and Austin were both Register All-Area selections this spring for Cheshire and Notre Dame-West Haven, respectively.
Elizabeth Bose of Norfolk, Virginia won the girls tournament with a two-round total of 7-over 147, good enough for a one-shot victory over Phoebe Brinker. Gabrielle Martin of Madison finished seventh (154).
Bernstein, an 18-year-old New York, New York resident, said he was coming off a blown lead at a American Junior Golf Association tournament last week in Philadelphia. He had the overnight lead and built a three-shot cushion on his front nine Wednesday.
But with consecutive bogeys on holes 7, 8 and 9, that lead was gone.
“I had a similar situation (last week). I regrouped, there but then down stretch, I didn’t finish,” Bernstein said.
Kovach, who lives in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, took the lead and maintained at least a share of it throughout the back nine. He parred holes 10 through 16. Then he hooked his 8-iron tee shot on the par-3 17th hole into the bunker.
“I was going right for the middle of the green. I knew two pars would probably do the job,” said Kovach, who will play at George Mason this fall.
“I took a knock-down 8 instead of a full 9. I had sand saves almost every time I was in a bunker, but that one bunker just didn’t have much sand in it. I skulled it over the green.”
It led to a double bogey and back into a tie for the lead. Simione, playing two groups ahead of the final one, lipped out a 15-foot birdie chance on the par-5 18th to move into the lead.
“I figured I had to birdie 18,” said Simione, who will be a senior at Cheshire. “I knew one of them (Kovach or Bernstein) would make one.”
Kovach missed a birdie attempt on the final hole from the back fringe. Bernstein made his 8-footer for birdie, but didn’t show much emotion after sinking the putt.
“I’m not that emotional,” Bernstein said. “This wasn’t the conventional way to finish, but I got it done.”
Said Kovach: “It stings. I put myself in position. One of these days, it will come. I think you have to lose a few (before you win).”
Austin, playing in that final group, also birdied the final hole to get into that four-way tie for second.
“The lead was always in my group, so I always knew here I stood,” said Austin, who will play at Fairfield. “I wasn’t really too concerned about how many players were between me and the lead. … I just wanted to give myself a chance on 18 and I did that. I came up a little short.”
Grenus, the defending champion, finished his round of 69 approximately two hours before the final group came in. He was on his way back to the course for a potential sudden-death playoff.
Thanks to Bernstein’s final birdie, that wasn’t needed.