BERLIN – When Ryan Lee teed off just after 10 a.m. Monday morning at the seventh annual Stan Trojanowski Memorial Golf Tournament, he had his sights set on becoming the first ever repeat champion in the tournament's 13-17 age division. After the first five holes though, Lee admitted he was struggling.
"I started off [and] I was two over after five holes, Lee said. But I stopped playing poorly and played well the last 13 [holes]."
Well enough, in fact, to match his 69 from last year and edge Nick Taylor, who shot a 73, to win for a second consecutive year. Lee finished the course with a birdie on the 18th hole, a hole that gave him trouble during last year�s tournament.
"I thought I played pretty well [overall], Lee said. I was definitely glad to end on a birdie."
Lee, from Berlin, wasn't the only player seeking a repeat in yesterday's competition, as Elizabeth Monty took last year's 13-17 girls title in a playoff. Monty had another solid showing this year, but finished second to 12-year-old Mia Landegren.
Landegren, who received permission from the PGA to compete in the 13-17 group after her performance last year, shot a 76 to edge Monty, who finished with a 79.
"It's exciting", Landegren said. "It's my first time shooting a 76 for the tournament, so I'm really happy."
Lee joined Cody Paladino as the only two-time winner in the event's seven-ear history. Cindy Paladino, Cody's mother and daughter of Stan Trojanowski, said the tournament, which was started to honor her father after he died of cancer, has continued to grow over the years.
"It's just my favorite day of the year", Cindy said. "We put a lot of energy into it [and] we get a lot of volunteers to help us. It's grown into the biggest and most popular event on this tour. This year we had live scoring. We've never done that before, so we're always trying something new."
The tournament, which is part of the Sierra Mist JGA Junior Golf Tour, is open to players from Connecticut and Massachusetts. The tour consists of between 13 and 15 events, with the Trojanowski Tournament being the biggest. Paladino said this year's field included roughly 200 kids, all vying for prizes at Berlin's Timberlin Golf Club.
"We give them a free gift when they come and register here, and that's a free golf towel, which is professional sized, she said. We give out the biggest prizes on the tour. [The top finishers] get a trophy and shop credit."
Cindy's 21-year-old son Brent served as the tournament director, handling everything from updating scores to setting up signs.
Brent is in charge, and obviously the PGA comes in too, Cindy said. But Brent runs everything, sets everything up, and if Cody were here he'd be helping out too. Brent takes all the score cards, he came up with this online scoring, he does all the signage, he goes out and marks the course.
For the first time, Cody was unable to attend the event this year. Along with Chuck Lasher, the assistant pro at Timberlin who also serves as Brent and Cody's instructor, Cody is down at the famed Pinehurst course in North Carolina competing in the 108th North & South Amatuer Championship Qualifying.
But with the help of extra volunteers the tournament was able to reach new levels of success this year, which could mean expansion for next year's tournament.
"We're thinking about doing it as a two-day championship [next year]", Cindy said. "We might give that a try."
Lee, for one, seemed more sure, especially since it would allow the 16-year-old two more years of competition.
"I can actually play the next two years, Lee said. They're making it a 36-hole event and it's going to be 18 [years old] and under. It's a Connecticut PGA event now [but] next year it's going to be a Challenge Cup event. It's like a step above."
Kelly Whaley of Farmington and Julia Kemmling of Berlin tied for first place in the girls 9-12 group with a plus-11. Wethersfield's Benjamin Miller finished with a plus-9 in the boys 9-12 bracket, good for a fourth-place tie.
Elisabeth Beloin of Farmington scored an 85 in the girls 13-17 group, which also tied her for fourth place. In the boys 13-17, Greg Beloin and Josh Edelson (both from Farmington) finished with scores of 74 and 75, putting them in third and fifth place, respectively. Kyle Ustach of New Britain tallied an 84, tying for 41st place.