WINDSOR — The scores were expected to be low when the country’s top junior descended on Keney Park, site of the 44th Boys Junior PGA this week.
None were lower than the 60 posted by Jake Beber-Frankel in Wednesday’s second round. He followed that up with a 65 on Thursday and now has a two-shot lead heading into Friday’s final round.
“I’ve never had to bounce back from a 60 before. It was a fun experiment for me to see what would happen. It wasn’t like I did a lot of special things today,” Beber-Frankel said.
Beber-Frankel broke the 54-hole scoring record and also the record in relation to par. Both marks were previously held by Akshay Bhatia, accomplished two years ago on a par-72 course. Keney Park is a par-70.
“I knew it was going to be low scores because of the length of the course (Keney Park is playing less than 6,500 yards),” said Beber-Frankel, who is verbally committed to play at Stanford University in the fall of 2020.
Beber-Frankel, who is from Miami (Fla.) is the son of David Frankel, an Academy Award-winning director.
Canon Claycomb shot 62 in the opening round and led the first two days. Now sitting two behind Beber-Frankel at 16-under 194, Claycomb will go off with Beber-Frankel and Andy Mao (195) in the final group at 9 a.m.
“It’s a birdie-fest out here. You gotta make birdies and that’s that. You can’t make bogeys,” Claycomb said. “I got off to a par-bogey start, which is terrible on this course. … the course is gettable if you can get it in position.”
SaId Beber-Frankel: “I think I have to go really low (Friday). I had a five-shot lead on Canon with two holes left, made one bogey and now I have a two-shot lead (Claycomb birdied his final two holes). I think birdies are going to be flying.”
Claycomb, who is verbally committed to play at Alabama, tied for third last year when the tournament was held at Valhalla GC in Louisville, Kentucky.
The state, which is hosting a PGA of America event for the first time, is well-represented in the Junior PGA. Ben James leads the contingent, firing a 6-under 64, making birdie on 18 from off the green and giving it a fist pump for good measure.
James is tied for 10th at 10-under 200, eight shots behind Beber-Frankel.
“Five- or six-under was my goal after (a) not too good of a performance (Wednesday, a 69),” James said. “I’m still not really in it, but I have a shot.”
It’s been quite the summer for James, a 16-year-old rising sophomore at Hamden Hall Country Day. He finished second in an AJGA event in North Carolina, won another in Killington, Vermont, won again last month at the Connecticut Junior Amateur and followed that up with a third-place finish in the Connecticut Open, the state’s biggest tournament not named the Travelers Championship.
“It’s a great course. I like it,” said James, who is committed to play at Virginia. “It’s really fun to see a lot of people I know, hang out with them, putt with them, hit balls with them, go out to dinner with them. That’s always a fun time during your junior career.”
Chris Fosdick of Middlefield posted a 3-under 68 to stand at 5-under 205, good enough to be in a tie for 24th place. He had to rally from an opening-round 71 that put him in danger of missing the 36-hole cut.
“I want to shoot 10 (under) for the tournament. Hopefully, I will go low (Friday),” Fosdick said.
Fosdick will be a freshman at Florida Southern College this fall. He wants to finish better than his tie for 17th last year in this event at Valhalla.
“It’s cool to be in your own state,” Fosdick said. “Sleeping in your own bed obviously helps. I played eight practice rounds. Round one didn’t really show I played eight practice rounds.”
Darien resident Will Lodge is tied with Fosdick after shooting a 69. He is entering his sophomore year at Deerfield (Mass.) Academy.
“It’s awesome playing in the first PGA event in Connecticut. Being from Connecticut, I’m really lucky to have that opportunity. To make the cut is extra-special,” Lodge said.
Hamden’s Alex Aurora is tied for 31st place in his first time qualifying for this national event.
“It’s the biggest tournament I have ever played. It definitely was a goal of mine to qualify for this event,” Aurora said. “I’ve made a lot of clutch par putts. Hopefully tomorrow, do the same thing, make a few more birdies.”
James, Fosdick and Aurora are all in the field at next week’s Northern Junior Championship being held at New Haven CC.