Best of New England: Junior Boys and Junior Girls
2016 promises to be an exciting year for junior golf in New England. With so many talented young competitors I would need at least half this issue to list them all along with their accomplishments. Suffice it to say I’ve done my best profiling my picks for some of the Best Juniors in New England. All our junior players are deserving of praise for their achievements now and going forward.
As I write this piece I can’t help but think of Megan Khang of Rockland, MA. who is embarking on her LPGA Tour career at the age of 18. A career that began as a U.S. Challenge Cup junior player not so long ago prepared Megan to compete at the highest level of women’s golf. In her first professional events on the LPGA Tour, Khang has made 6 starts. Making 3 cuts, she has finished T-11th, T-4th and in her last event, prior to this writing, she had a T-7th that included a second round 64 at the LOTTE Championship. A tournament low equaled only by the winner of the championship. Megan’s earnings sit at $125,394. It’s not going to be long before we see this feisty proud daughter of Lee and Nou Kue Khang in the winners circle.
Below are my picks for the Best Boy and Girl Junior players followed by the Top 3 Boys and Top 3 Girls to watch this season. Luck to all our juniors this year.
Best Junior Boy
Michael Thorbjornsen, Wellesley, MA (2020) is my pick for Best Junior Boy. Last July Michael won the 1st Annual Massachusetts Boys Junior Amateur Championship with a -1/69 at the Norfolk Golf Club at age 13. This youngster has been playing competitively since age 6 in the U.S. Kids Golf program. Michael was named National Player of the Year in 2012 and ’13 winning back to back World Championships. He’s one of only a handful of youngsters having accomplished the feat in the U.S. Kids Golf’s 15 year history.
Thorbjornsen was the overall winner of this year’s National Winner of the Drive Chip and Putt National Finals held at Augusta National Golf Club in the boys’ 14-15 age group.
The 34th Annual Challenge Cup Championship at Alpine CC in Cranston, RI saw the now 14 year old finish 9th in the 2 day event. What caught my eye was the fact Michael competed in the 15-18 year old division. He posted scores of 75, 79 for a 154 total that was just six off the winning score.
Best Junior Girl
Anne Walsh, Jamaica Plain, MA (2020) is off to a good start as the Top Junior Girl finishing 2nd in the Challenge Cup Championship Girls Division. The 14 year old made it to the Elite 8 of the Challenge Cup’s Junior Match Play Championship before being knocked off by the older Jen Keim MA (2016). The Walsh cleaned up on the NEPGA Girls circuit in 2015 with 3 wins, 11-2nd and 5-3rd place finishes at age 13. She advanced to the quarter finals of the Women’s Massachusetts State Amateur Championship in 2015. From what I’ve seen, Anne Walsh is on track to have a great season on the links.
Junior Boys to Watch
Patrick Welch, Providence, RI (2018) remains a top junior player and is off to a grand start finishing among the top players at the Challenge Cup Match Play Championship. Patrick tied for Medalist honors with Michael Thorbjornsen in the Scott Robinson Memorial Sectional Qualifier shooting 71 at Rehoboth CC last month.
Bryson Richards, Plainfield, VT (2019) at 15 has been competing since playing in the U.S.Kids Golf World Championships at age 7 in 2008 at Pinehurst. Bryson finished 3rd in a scorecard playoff after a three way tie for 1st at the Challenge Cup Championship last month.
Ben James, Milford, CT (2021) is certainly one junior to keep your eyes on this year. Ben wanted to sign a letter of intent to play his college golf at UCONN at age 11. He seems to be on track after finishing 5th posting a 78 in the March Madness Spring Shootout. He finished 2nd in the 14 and under division of the Scott Robinson Memorial Sectional Qualifier posting another 78.
Junior Girls to Watch
Alexis Florio, Cranston, RI (2018) is in just her fourth year of competitive golf. She finished 8th in the Challenge Cup Championship and 5th in the Hornblower Junior Classic. In 2015 Alexis made the Semi-Finals of the Rhode Island Junior Amateur Championship and finished 6th individually in the RI State High School Golf Championship competing from the white tees as a member of the Cranston HS West golf team.
Emily Nash, Lunenburg, MA (2018) qualified for the U. S. Challenge Cup’s March Madness Spring Shootout posting a 79 in the Girls 14 & under division. She finished 4th overall in the Shootout. She advanced to the Final 4 of the Challenge Cup Junior Match Play Championship and 8th in the Challenge Cup Championship. Last year Emily was voted MVP by the Lunenburg HS boy’s golf team. Then 14, Emily amassed an impressive record of 11-2-2.
Julia Ford, Shrewsbury, MA (2016) won the Challenge Cup Championship at Alpine CC posting scores of 75, 77 for a 152 total and a winning margin of 9 shots. Julia, in her senior year at Shrewsbury HS had quite a year in 2015. In just a matter of weeks last July she qualified for both the USGA Junior Championship and the Junior PGA Championship. A standout on the junior circuit in New England I’m anxious to follow her success in 2016 and beyond.