Caroline Hodge, Christopher Francoeur Lead After Round One
 
  

The 16th Northern Junior Championship presented by The Golf Performance Center began today at historic New Haven Country Club in Hamden, Connecticut, and low scores were the story of the day. Although the day started with overcast skies and a light misting rain, the clouds soon parted and the sun gleamed over the nearly 100 year old layout. Christopher Francoeur of Amesbury, Massachusetts leads the Boys Championship after a sublime round of four under par 66, while Caroline Hodge of Larchmont, New York fired a wonderful round of one under par 69 to lead the Girls Championship.

The players were pleased to see the sun shining during Tuesday’s round, especially after heavy rains shortened many players’ practice rounds on Monday. As is customary at the Northern Junior Championship, the players and their families were welcomed Monday night at the Players Dinner, which included the presentation of the Ryan Lee Memorial Scholarship to Brendan Cronin, a soon to be freshman at Lafayette College. Cronin posted a round of 72 on Tuesday and finds himself six shots off the lead heading into Wednesday. The Long Drive Contest, typically held on Monday night, was rescheduled for Tuesday night due to the weather, which drew an impressive turnout thanks in part to an ice cream sundae bar for the players and their families.

As for the competition, the Boys Championship features a packed leaderboard with a total of fifteen players shooting par or better on Tuesday. Leader Christopher Francoeur had the pleasure of playing in the very first group of the day, teeing off at 6:51 AM, but the early wake-up call seems to have served him well. The incoming freshman at the University of Rhode Island capped off his round with a birdie-birdie finish on 17 and 18 to post four under several hours before the final groups of the day even began their rounds.

“It was great to get out on the course early,” Francoeur said after his round. “I didn’t have to wait to play any shots so I was able to maintain my momentum. Everything was just on today.”

As for Wednesday’s final round, the overnight leader hopes to replicate his stellar play around New Haven Country Club. “I love the golf course. It just suits my game perfectly. I can hit a tight draw on just about every hole out here, and I love the way it sets up for me.”

But Francoeur won’t be without challengers. If he wants to get his hands on the Northern Junior trophy, he will have to stay ahead of fifteen players who are within four shots of the lead. Just one stroke back are Jack Maguire of Ridgefield, Connecticut and Mark Turner of Gloucester, Massachusetts, who both posted beautiful rounds of three under par 67. Maguire’s round featured a stellar stretch of three birdies in a row on holes 11, 12 and 13, while Turner played his last four holes in three under par. Maguire and Turner will join Francoeur in the final pairing on Wednesday afternoon in what is sure to be a thrilling display of golf.

Not to be forgotten are Colton Tanner of Park City, Utah and Alex Jamieson of Duxbury, Massachusetts, who each posted rounds of two under par 68 on Tuesday. Another group of players stands at one under par and will be within striking distance on Wednesday: Benjamin James, Zachary Ong, and T. Andrew DiPetrillo.

Another storyline for Wednesday’s final round will be the opportunity for 2016 Northern Junior champion Bobby Weise to defend his title. Weise posted a round of even par 70 and is part of large group of players just four shots back. Fortunately for Weise, playing from behind isn’t something that bothers him.

“I kind of like playing from behind,” said Weise after the opening round. “I was three back heading into the final round last year. I think it frees you up to just keep attacking and keep trying to take it low. I hit a lot of greens today, I just need to make a few putts tomorrow and see what happens.”

In the Girls Championship, Caroline Hodge of Larchmont, New York will carry a two stroke lead into Wednesday’s final round after her superb opening round 69. A birdie on the 18th hole left Hodge beaming from ear to ear, and feeling confident heading into Wednesday’s final round.

“I feel like I had a very good game plan for this course, and just stuck to what I feel comfortable doing, which is hitting a lot of fairways and greens,” said Hodge. The rising senior has recently committed to play golf at Florida State University beginning in 2018, and has every right to smile after midway through this year’s Northern Junior. Speaking about New Haven Country Club, Hodge added, “It’s such a beautiful, classic, northeast course. I just love the way the holes look from the tees, and I can’t wait to play it again tomorrow.”

Hodge’s closest competition will come from Bailey Davis of White Plains, Maryland, who opened her tournament with a steady round of 71. Despite a closing bogey on the 18th hole, Davis is optimistic about her chances on Wednesday.

“I hit just about every fairway and hit most greens in regulation, so I put myself in great position to make birdie or par on almost every hole,” said Davis after her round. “I had some very good chances to make more birdies, I just need to roll in a few more putts.”

Davis, who is only a rising freshman in high school, will have a chance to etch her name on the Northern Junior trophy tomorrow, but she will need some superb play to catch Hodge. Another stroke back is Madeline Jin of Belle Meade, New Jersey who posted a fine round of 72 to sit three strokes behind the leader. Jin was at the top of the leaderboard for most of the day, but like Davis, she suffered a bogey on the final hole.

Jin is joined at two over par by Rylie Heflin of Avondale, Pennsylvania, who finished tied for fourth in last year’s Northern Junior. Rounding out the top five are Winnie McCabe of Dover, Massachusetts and Jacqueline Cherry of Ellicott City, Maryland after rounds of 73 on Tuesday.

Widely regarded as one of the top private golf courses in New England, New Haven Country Club has a long history of hosting the area’s top amateur and professional championships. An incredible sixteen Connecticut Amateur Championships and seven Connecticut Open Championships have been contested over the Robert D. Pryde and Willie Park Jr. design, and the club will add to its impressive resume next year when it hosts the 2018 Connecticut Open. A total of 134 players from 23 different states, provinces, and countries are competing at New Haven Country Club this week in hopes to become the next Northern Junior champion.

The final round of the 2017 Northern Junior will begin tomorrow, August 9th at 6:45 AM, with the leading groups teeing off between 12:00 PM and 1:30 PM. Admission and parking at New Haven Country Club are free and spectators are encouraged to attend.

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