Milford, Conn. – The 20th Northern Junior Championship presented by Junior Golf Hub concluded on Wednesday at picturesque Great River Golf Club. Players faced similar conditions for both rounds of competition on Tuesday and Wednesday, with warm temperatures and a challenging southerly wind adding to the difficultly of the Tom Fazio design.
In the Boys Championship, Nashawn Tyson of Stuart, Florida made a clutch birdie putt on the final hole to win by one shot, while Joanne Lee of Henderson, Nevada emerged from a three person sudden-death playoff with an outstanding birdie on the third playoff hole.
Heading into Wednesday’s final round, two players shared the lead at even par after opening rounds of 72 – Samantha Galantini (West Orange, N.J.) and Cecilia Jia (British Columbia, Canada). Several players sat within one or two shots of the lead and it seemed clear who were the names to watch for the final round.
One player who might have been overlooked was Joanne Lee, after a disappointing opening round of 75 left her three shots back of the lead. However, Lee came out blazing in the final round with four birdies in the first eight holes and skyrocketed into a share of the lead, but only briefly as she then made a disastrous triple bogey on the par 4 9th hole.
At that point, Cecilia Jia held control of the lead after she posted a one under par round of 35 on the front nine. Another challenger was Vincenza (Vinny) Papa who also posted a one under par on the front nine to sit at 1 over par total, just two shots behind Jia. Some late bogeys eventually landed Papa at 4 over total for the championship and in a tie for 4th.
Meanwhile, following her disappointing end to the front nine, Joanne Lee bounced back with a birdie on the 11th, followed by two more bogeys and she reached the 18th hole still trailing the current leader Jia. She then proceeded to make a clutch birdie putt on the final green, landing her in playoff with Elizabeth Tucci (New Market, Md.) and Jia who made a costly bogey on the 18th hole.
In the sudden-death playoff, all three players tied the first two playoff holes (the 16th and 17th holes) before returning the 18th for a dramatic finish. With Tucci and Jia both scrambling to try to save par after missing the green with their approach shots, Lee delivered a stellar iron shot from the fairway to ten feet past the hole, leaving her with a treacherous downhill birdie attempt. With a gallery of spectators, parents, and other players surrounding the green, Lee sank yet another clutch birdie putt on the 18th green and claim the title.
Lee entered the Northern Junior as the highest ranked player in the field, and her victory at the Northern Junior adds to her impressive 2022 season that includes a win and two runner-up finishes in AJGA tournaments. As a 2023 high school graduate, she will be eligible to defend her title next year and look to become the first repeat Girls Champion in tournament history.
Entering Wednesday’s final round, three players sat tied for the lead at three under par – Henry Dall (Scottsdale, Aiz.), Zachary Munno (Stamford, Conn.), and the eventual champion Tyson. All three players had the luxury of playing alongside each other in the final tee time of the day, but there were plenty of challengers from the earlier groupings as well.
Early final round action featured some exciting birdies and eagles on the front nine, including a fantastic opening front nine of three under 33 from Steven Shea (Charlotte, N.C.) which briefly catapulted him into a share of the lead. An unfortunate series of events on the back nine left Shea with a second round of 74 and he eventually finished in a tie for 9th at 2 over par 146.
Another player to grab a share of the lead was Connecticut’s own Zachary Munno, who recorded back-to-back birdies on 10 and 11, and at that point sat atop the leaderboard with his Henry Dall. Unfortunately for Munno, he faltered at the difficult par 5 12th and par 4 13th and would eventually finish in a tie for 7th with a two-round total of 145.
Meanwhile, Tyson opened his final round with a pair of pars and then a disappointing double bogey on the 3rd hole and posted an opening nine of 37 to sit at 2 under par for the tournament. He was unfazed by the birdie barrage from Dall and Munno and at one point it appeared to be a two-man race between his playing competitors. However, in true champion fashion, Tyson played a bogey-free back nine, which included a beautiful birdie at the par 5 15th and a clutch up and down on the par 3 17th.
Standing on the 18th green, Dall still held onto a one-shot lead but left his birdie putt five feet short of the hole. Tyson settled over his fifteen-foot birdie putt and rolled it into the left side of the cup and let out an emphatic fist pump. When Dall’s par putt slid by the hole, Tyson let out of a sigh of relief and cemented his place in Northern Junior history with one of the most clutch putts in recent memory.
Tyson was the only player to post back-to-back under par rounds with scores of 69 and 71 for a two-round total of 140. Dall finished solo second with a 3 under par total of 141 after rounds of 69 and 72. There was a four-way tie for 3rd place at even par 144 – Brandon Knight (Pleasanton, Calif.), Hayden Adams (Lexington, Ky.), Xingzhi Lin (Hong Kong), and Aksel Moe (Sarasota, Fla.).
Nashawn Tyson also recently captured his first AJGA title in Tallahassee, Florida just a few weeks ago, and similar to Lee, he will be eligible to return to Connecticut and defend his title next year, looking to join Ben James and Ryan Lee as the only other repeat Boys Champions of the Northern Junior.
About the Northern Junior Championship
As has become customary, the Northern Junior kicked off on Monday with player practice rounds and the annual Players Dinner along with a Skills and Long Drive Contest. In the Long Drive Contest, Kenna Roman bested the field was an impressive 253 yards while Breckin Taylor delivered a bomb of 321 yards. In the Skills Contest, Laniah Moffett and Aiden Azevedo each emerged victorious in the Girls and Boys Divisions, respectively.
Players and families also witnessed the presentation of the Ryan Lee Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded each year to one competitor in memory of two-time Northern Junior champion Ryan Lee. Ryan’s passion and love for the game of golf left a lasting impression on everyone he met, and it is a true honor for the Northern Junior Championship to help carry on his legacy. This year’s recipient, Morgan MacLeod of North Attleboro, Mass., will attend Merrimack College this fall and join their women’s golf team.
A special thank you to the entire staff at Great River Golf Club for their exceptional support and hospitality, especially Mark Appelberg, Karin Attolino, Tom Rosati, and Jason Loomis. Sincere thanks and appreciation to Great River’s Superintendent J.P. MacPherson and his entire grounds crew for presenting such an outstanding test of golf and phenomenal conditions throughout the week.
A special thanks to the countless volunteers who helped to make this year’s championship so special, as well as the Connecticut State Golf Association and Junior Golf Hub for their continued support of the Northern Junior. The 2023 Northern Junior will be contested on July 31 – August 2 at New Haven Country Club in Hamden, Connecticut and we look forward to an excellent championship.
A final congratulations to Nashawn Tyson and Joanne Lee, the 2022 Northern Junior Champions.