Ben James has had one of the best summer seasons in the history of Connecticut junior golf, but it was his accomplishments on the American Junior Golf Association circuit that helped him accomplish his ultimate goal.
James has earned the final spot on the 12-player United States Junior Presidents Cup team. The final rankings, based on a season-long points race, were officially revealed Thursday.
“I’m excited. It’s pretty big. My goal after coming in second at (The) Wyndham (Invitational), I realized I had a chance to accomplish this,” James said.
The official announcement of the team is not expected until next week.
The event is scheduled to be held Dec. 8-9 at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia against the International Team. It is being held just before the PGA Tour pros, captained by Tiger Woods, takes on the International Team in the Presidents Cup Dec. 12-15.
“It’s unbelievable, only 12 people every two years in the United States get to do it,” James said. “It’s a dream come true really, to be on such a great team with such great golfers. It will be super fun.”
The top 12 players from the U.S. qualified. It is based off the American Junior Golf Association rankings, where James finished 18th — 12th among U.S. players, therefore earning the last spot.
James is coming off a tie for 19th place at the Junior Players Championship held last weekend at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. He came into that tournament ranked 11th in the standings.
“Even though I didn’t play as well as I wanted to, I was at Sawgrass, which has such a history (hosts the PGA Tour’s Players Championship),” James said. “For sure, I really tried to enjoy myself there as much as anywhere (he played) this year.”
As James, a 16-year-old sophomore at Hamden Hall Country Day, noted, that second-place finish at the Wyndham Invitational in mid-June not only propelled the start to the great summer play, it also moved him up several spots in the standings. A couple of weeks later, he won another AJGA event in Killington, Vermont.
A tie for ninth at the Boys Junior PGA — an event featuring the nation’s best junior golfers held at Keney Park in Windsor — allowed James to move up in the standings even more.
There were also great performances that didn’t count toward the points’ standings: victories at the Connecticut Junior Amateur, the Northern Junior, medalist laurels at the New England Junior Championship, won by Connecticut, and a third-place finish at the Connecticut Open.
The U.S. Junior team will be captained by Justin Leonard, a former major champion and Ryder Cup hero.
“I’ll pick his brain a lot. I’ll ask a lot of questions, learn what a really good tour player thinks about, his mindset,” James said.
So what will it be like for James to represent his country?
“That’s going to be amazing,” he said. “We want the United States to bring home the Junior President’s Cup. This is a really big honor.”