Tournament Links: Final Results | Photo Gallery
Hamden, Conn. – The 21st Northern Junior Championship presented by Junior Golf Hub concluded on Wednesday at historic New Haven Country Club in Hamden, Connecticut. Following challenging and windy conditions in the first round on Tuesday, players were treated to better scoring conditions on Wednesday for the final round, which yielded eleven under par rounds in total.
In the Boys Championship, Alex Elia of Wilton, Connecticut emerged from the pack with a two under par total of 138, while Rebecca Wang of Beijing, China produced an emphatic three-shot victory in the Girls Championship, tallying just two bogeys for 36 holes.
Entering Wednesday’s final round, Benjamin Zeiler (Del Mar, California) held a slim one-shot lead after an opening round of 68. Four more players posted rounds of one under 69 on Tuesday, leaving the stage set for a dramatic final round. Elia was in the group at one under to start Wednesday’s round, and he played flawlessly across the first eleven holes with nine pars and two birdies.
“It was a grind out there today,” said Elia. “I wasn’t entirely sure where I stood on the back nine but I knew there were a lot of guys chasing and in the mix.”
Among those in the mix were Griffin Barke (Crestwood, Kentucky) and Elliott Spaulding (Freeport, Maine) who both played immaculate golf through the first 16 holes of the final round. At that point, Barke was bogey-free with 4 birdies on the day, and Spaulding was also bogey-free with 3 birdies of his own. Unfortunately for both players, they would bogey the tricky par 3 17th hole, which was playing into a strong south breeze. Barke then bogeyed the long par 5 18th and both players posted one under par 139 in the clubhouse.
Additionally, James Earle (Jupiter, Florida) had his sights on the trophy and had reached three under par after 12 holes in the final round, but faltered with bogeys on 13 and 17, and also posted one under par 139 to tie Spaulding and Barke. Wesley Hu (Suwanee, Georgia) drained a 20-foot sliding birdie putt on 18 to join the growing contingent at 139 in the clubhouse.
Meanwhile in the final grouping of the day, Elia avoided dropping a shot at the difficult 17th thanks to a clutch 6-footer for par. That set the stage for the par 5 18th, with Elia at two under holding on to a slim one-shot margin, and his playing partner Zeiler sitting at one under needing a birdie to force a playoff. Zeiler hit his approach shot into the back right fringe, not far from the back right hole location, while Elia found the right side of the green with his approach. Zeiler putted first, narrowly missing his birdie attempt by an inch on the right side of the cup. He joined the large group at one under in the clubhouse, making it a five-way tie for 2nd place. Needing just two putts for victory, Elia lagged his first putt close and tapped in to seal the one-shot victory.
“It feels awesome to win this event,” said Elia in his post-round interview. “It’s a tough course and the wind really picked up today. I just told myself to keep grinding until the very end, and fortunately I came out on top.”
Starting the final round on Wednesday, Jordan Levitt (Bedford, New York) held a narrow one-shot lead after an opening round of one under par. Three other players – Angelina Huang (Las Vegas, Nevada), Katie Ha (Los Angeles, California), and Rebecca Wang (Beijing, China) – all posted rounds of even par on Tuesday and were in position to claim the trophy.
Unfortunately for Ha and Levitt, they would post opening nines of 4 over and 5 over, respectively, and fall out of contention on the back nine. Huang opened with a clean card on the front nine with 9 straight pars and sat at even par total entering the back nine. At that point, she trailed Wang by just one shot, as Wang opened with a splendid front nine that included 8 pars and a birdie to push her to one under par total.
Meanwhile, the biggest mover of the day was playing several groups ahead, as Audrey Park (Newcastle, Washington) reached four under par for her round after 14 holes and had clawed her way back to even par total despite an opening round 75. Her first bogey of the day came at 15 and she added another bogey at 17, but still posted a brilliant two under par score of 69 and sat as the clubhouse leader at two over par total.
Another player from the earlier groups, Arabella Lopez (Ridgefield, Connecticut) emerged from the pack and conquered the difficult back nine, notching birdies at 13, 15, and 16, and eventually signed for a two over par total, joining Park as the clubhouse leaders.
Wang proved to be unflappable however, and after her clean front nine she added another birdie at 11, followed by her only bogey of the day at 13. Sitting at one under par total with 5 holes to play, she continued to hit greens in regulation coming down the stretch and made five straight pars to close, securing a three-shot victory.
Wang’s performance ranks among the strongest in Northern Junior history, especially given the windy conditions for both rounds. Across 36 holes, she made 3 birdies, 2 bogeys, and 31 pars, in what was an outstanding display of ball-striking and long distance putting.
Five players in total tied for 4th place at four over par total: Alyssa Lim (Union City, California), Mingyu Zhang (Beijing, China), Menglu Zhu (Windermere, Florida), Katie Ha (Los Angles, California) and Angelina Huang (Las Vegas, Nevada).
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 the Long Drive Contest. Alex Smyth (North Palm Beach, Florida) won the Boys Division with a 325-yard bomb into the wind, while Cailyn Rogers bested the competition in the Girls Division with an impressive 266 yards.
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 was Lily Huether of Tucson, Arizona.
New Haven Country Club has played host to countless championships in its history, including the Connecticut Open, Connecticut Amateur, and New England Amateur, and 2023 marks the 7th time that the Northern Junior has been contested at this remarkable venue. New Haven Country Club is also celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year, as the club was originally founded in 1898. This year’s Northern Junior Championship featured a total of 110 players from 29 different states, provinces, and countries.
The 2024 Northern Junior will be contested on August 5-7, 2024 at Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford, Connecticut. Like New Haven Country Club, Hartford Golf Club has a long legacy of hosting prestigious championships including multiple USGA National Championships, and they recently celebrated their own 125th Anniversary as the club was founded in 1896. Next year will mark the 22nd playing of the Northern Junior. The event will then return to New Haven Country Club in 2025.
A special thanks to the countless volunteers who helped to make this year’s championship so special, and thank you New Haven Country Club, Junior Golf Hub, the Ryan T. Lee Foundation and the Connecticut State Golf Association for their continued support of the Northern Junior.
Congratulations to Alex Elia and Rebecca Wang, the 2023 Northern Junior Champions.