HAMDEN — The summer for Ben James keeps getting better and better and better. Simply put, the 16 year old from Milford has been the story of the 2019 state golf season since mid-June.
Another chapter was added on Wednesday afternoon. James shot his second straight 3-under-par round of 67 at New Haven Country Club to win the 18th Northern Junior by five strokes.
“My putting has improved a lot and my chipping is dynamite right now,” James said. “I know when I miss a green, I will get up and down (for par). I’m not afraid to go at a pin. I can play a little aggressive and I’m still driving the ball straight.”
James, who will be a sophomore at Hamden Hall Country Day and has already verbally committed to play at Virginia, successfully defended his title from last year, when the event was held at Great River GC — James’ home course.
“It’s great to defend. You’re always trying to win, but it’s always a little sweeter to win when you’re defending,” James said.
Tommy Dallahan (Simsbury), Sebastian Moss (Pearland, Texas) and Tom Stafford (Beaconsfield, Quebec) all tied for second at 1-under 139.
Emma Shen (Tenafly, N.J.) also won by five, claiming the girls championship with a 2-over 142 two-round total.
Since completing his freshman year at Hamden Hall, James has won an American Junior Golf Association event in Killington, Vermont and finished second in another in Greensboro, North Carolina in June.
He lapped the field at the Connecticut Junior Amateur in July and then finished third at the Connecticut Open 10 days later, the biggest event in the state not named the Travelers Championship. Last week, he tied for ninth at the Boys Junior PGA held at Keney Park in Windsor — an event featuring the nation’s best junior golfers.
And now, less than a week later, James was never threatened in a tournament that featured golfers from 24 states, provinces and countries.
“I really don’t go and settle back, (saying), ‘I had a great year.’ I just forget about it and go try and win the next tournament,” James said.
And by no means is James’ summer done yet. He is competing in the Nike Junior Collegiate this weekend in Durham, North Carolina, then returns to Connecticut for the New England Junior Championship meet Monday and Tuesday at Mill River CC in Stratford.
It all culminates Labor Day weekend with the Boys Junior PGA Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida. It’s by invitation only and James, who is 25th in the national AJGA rankings and the only state player invited, is trying to land a spot on the U.S. Junior Presidents Cup Team.
This tournament will be the last one to determine the top 12 juniors who will go play alongside the PGA Tour pros Dec. 9-15 at the Royal Melbourne Club in Melbourne, Australia. James is currently in 12th place.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) August 7, 2019
James finished Wednesday’s round with four birdies (4, 11, 15 and 17) and one bogey (16). Last year’s victory was only 18 holes because severe weather interrupted the second round with just a handful of groups left on the course. They never finished and the round had to be wiped away.
Tournament officials made the decision to send foursomes off both tees Wednesday morning to make sure it didn’t happen again with the threat of severe thunderstorms in the forecast.
Chris Fosdick of Middlefield was the next-highest state finisher, tying for seventh place (142). The next best were Michael Hanratty of Avon and Jackson Roman of Kensington — James’ high school teammate — tied for 15th (145).
Like James, Shen led after Tuesday’s opening round thanks to a 2-under 68. Conditions were tougher on Wednesday as the wind kicked up, so a 4-over 74 was still more than good enough.
“I was looking at (leaderboards) all day to try and figure out where I was,” said Shen, who played in the Northern Junior for a third time. “I know I was going to encounter bumps along the way in today’s round. No round of golf is stress-free, so I knew if I continued to play my game, I would be fine. … I know the greens were really tough, so managing my putts and getting the speed right really helped.”
CT Public Links
Peter Tomlinson of Orange Hills CC fired a 4-under-par 66 to come from behind to win the 34th Connecticut Public Links at Wintonbury Hills GC Wednesday.
This is his first victory in a CSGA event for Tomlinson, a Seymour resident. He won by two strokes over reigning State Amateur champion Richard Dowling (Golf Performance Center) and Gabe Van Ness (Norwich GC), a former standout golfer at both The Morgan School and Bryant University. Van Ness owned the first-round lead after shooting 64.
Defending champion John Abbott (Timberlin GC) and James Sheltman (Alling Memorial GC) tied for fourth, three strokes behind Tomlinson in the 36-hole event.