Madeline Jin, Mark Turner Capture 2017 Northern Junior
 
  

The 16th Northern Junior Championship presented by the Golf Performance Center concluded on Wednesday afternoon at the famed New Haven Country Club, and two future stars in the game of golf were crowned this year’s Northern Junior Champions. Bright sunshine and blue skies set the stage for a wonderful conclusion to the event, but breezy conditions made the tricky layout even more treacherous. At day’s end, it was Mark Turner of Gloucester, Massachusetts and Madeline Jin of Belle Meade, New Jersey who emerged victorious.

Following the Players Dinner on Monday night, which included the presentation of the Ryan Lee Memorial Scholarship to Brendan Cronin, the players were greeted with soft, receptive conditions during Tuesday’s opening round. Players and families again converged at New Haven Country Club on Tuesday night for the traditional Long Drive Contest, won by Connor Belcastro (326 yards) for the boys and Olivia Zambruno (267 yards) for the girls.

But when Wednesday morning arrived, the players shifted their focus to becoming the next Northern Junior champion. Defending Champion Bobby Weise was attempting to become only the second player in Northern Junior history to successfully defend his title. Ryan Lee of Berlin, Connecticut accomplished that feat in 2007 and 2008, but after rounds of 70 and 72 Weise had to settle for a tie for tenth place at two over par for the championship.

At one point on Wednesday afternoon, deciding the winner of the Boys Championship appeared to be a mere formality. Overnight leader Christopher Francoeur of Amesbury, Massachusetts reached six under par for the tournament after a remarkable birdie on the difficult par 3 12th, and seemed to be firmly in control of the championship. An unfortunate bogey on the uphill par 4 13th was followed by another at the par 4 14th, and Francoeur’s lead had slipped to just one shot when he reached the par 3 17th hole. After finding the green in regulation, Francoeur then suffered a devastating four-putt double bogey, dropping him to one shot back of the lead.

Meanwhile, playing in the same group as Francoeur, Mark Turner turned on the jets for the second day in a row on the closing holes of New Haven Country Club. Turner, who is high school teammates and best friends with Francoeur, birdied the par 3 17th for a crucial three shot swing, and stepped up to the 18th tee tied for the lead with Alex Jamieson of Duxbury, Massachusetts.  Jamieson, playing in the group ahead, failed to birdie the par 5 18th, and posted three under par for the championship to become the leader in the clubhouse.

After a beautiful drive, Turner then delivered a majestic three wood to the back edge of the green, leaving himself about thirty feet for eagle and certain victory. Not to be outdone, Francoeur rebounded like a first-class champion with a birdie on the 18th to tie Jamieson in the clubhouse at three under. After Turner’s lag putt ran just past the hole, he faced a four foot birdie putt for the Northern Junior title. With a deep breath and smooth stroke, Turner calmly rolled in the clutch birdie.

“It feels amazing to win this tournament,” Turner said during his victory speech. “This event is so much fun to play and the golf course is absolutely excellent. I want to thank Chris [Francoeur] and Alex [Jamieson] for being so gracious and supportive, and for being such awesome competitors.”

Turner’s rounds of 67 and 69 gave his a four under par total of 136, good enough for a one stroke victory over Francoeur and Jamieson. Alone in fourth place was Colton Tanner of Park City, Utah, who posted solid rounds of 68 and 70 for a two under par total of 138. One stroke back at one under par 139 was Benjamin James of Milford, Connecticut, a remarkable performance from a young man who will be just an eighth grader this fall.

In the Girls Championship, Madeline Jin of Belle Meade, New Jersey outlasted the field with rock solid ball striking even amid the breezy conditions. Jin’s round of 72 on Tuesday left her three shots off the lead of Caroline Hodge of Larchmont, New York who posted an opening round one under par 69. But Jin’s game plan of hitting fairways and greens proved to be a winning formula, as she hit a total of thirty-four out of thirty-six greens in regulation throughout the championship.

But Jin’s victory didn’t come without some late back-nine drama. Overnight leader Caroline Hodge found herself tied for the lead with Jin when she reached the cruel par 3 17th. After splashing her bunker shot out on to the green, Hodge faced a daunting par putt to keep pace with Jin, who was playing the group ahead. A catastrophic four-putt left Hodge with a triple bogey, and ended her chances of capturing this year’s Northern Junior. But the future Florida State Seminole will have a chance for redemption in 2018, and hopes to improve upon her sixth place finish next year.

Hodge wasn’t Jin’s only competition though, as Rylie Heflin of Avondale, Pennsylvania found herself atop the leaderboard midway through the final round. Heflin, who opened the championship with solid round of 72 on Tuesday, was even par for the day and tied for the lead when she reached the par 4 16th hole. An untimely double bogey on the 16th left Heflin in a tough spot to catch Jin, who continued to plot her way around New Haven Country Club with precision.  Heflin would have to settle for another round of 72, and a four over par total of 144 earned her a solo second place finish. Her outstanding play will be exciting to watch for many years to come, and she is only a rising freshman in high school.

When Jin reached the final green, she faced a ten foot birdie putt to essentially seal her title. The putt never left the center of the cup, and Jin gave a joyful fist pump as she watched the putt drop.

“I’m thrilled to win this tournament,” said Jin after her stellar performance. “It’s funny, because usually the strength of my game is my short game and putting. But this week I hit the ball so well and that’s really what carried me to victory. I also really want to thank my parents for all of their support and for being here with me.”

Jin’s final round of even par 70 was the lowest round of the day in the Girls Championship, and her two over par total of 142 earned her a two stroke victory. Alone in second was Heflin at four over par, followed by Bailey Davis of White Plains, Maryland at five over par. In a tie for fourth place at six over par were Riddhi Singh of Marlboro, New Jersey and Jacqueline Cherry of Ellicott City, Maryland.

For the second year in a row, players of the Northern Junior enjoyed a special treat during the final round when they reached the 18th green. Sergeant Stewart of the United States Marine Corps greeted the players and attended the flagstick on the final green, appropriately adorned with a United States of America flag. Many players and families took the opportunity to offer their thanks and appreciation for his service and his dedication to the United States of America. It was yet another beautiful tribute to Stan Trojanowski, for whom the Northern Junior was originally founded. Stan Trojanowski was a marine himself, serving in World War II. Sadly, Stanley Trojanowski passed away in 2001 due to mesothelioma, yet his spirit and love for the game of golf continue to live on through golf’s next generation.

This year marked the 16th playing of the Northern Junior Championship, an internationally recognized junior championship held each year in the state of Connecticut. The 2017 field featured players from 23 different states, provinces, and countries who had not reached their 19th birthday or entered college by August 9th. More information about this year’s event, as well as next year’s event, can be found at NorthernJunior.com.

A sincere thank you to the golf staff, maintenance crew, and members of New Haven Country Club for their support, and thank you to the countless volunteers and Connecticut State Golf Association officials who helped to make this year’s Northern Junior the best event yet. Congratulations once again to Mark Turner and Madeline Jin, the 2017 Northern Junior champions.

 

About The Golf Performance Center

The Golf Performance Center is the Northeast's leading golf academy. Leveraging more than 20 years of experience, PGA and TPI Certified Founder Roger Knick and his coaching staff provide a unique methodology to training that focuses on the 5 Elements of Success: Desire, Coaching, Physical Performance & Nutrition, Mental Game, and Equipment. Combined with state-of-the-art training facilities and performance-assessment technologies, athletes enjoy customized programs designed to take their game to the next level and give them the competitive edge they seek.

About the Northern Junior Championship

The Northern Junior Championship is a nationally ranked junior golf tournament that is contested over two days at New Haven Country Club in Hamden, Connecticut and is open to amateur boys and girls under the age of 19 who have not entered their first year of college. The tournament attracts a field of competitors from across the country and across the world, and is conducted with the goal of providing the same first-class championship experience offered at the best national amateur and professional events. Now in its 16th year, the Northern Junior Championship is conducted each year in memory of Stan Trojanowski, father of Cindy and Gary Trojanowski, who passed away in 2001 due to Mesothelioma. 

 

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