Our junior golfers made sure to turn on the heat at the 4th Annual Cherry Blossom Classic as stiff competition left everyone wondering who would walk away as this year’s champions.
More than 90 golfers gathered at University of Maryland Golf Course (UMDGC) in College Park, Maryland with hopes of qualifying for some of the most sought after Invitationals in the Capitol Area.
Over the course of the two days many of the junior golfers learned that at UMDGC there was just as much risk as there was reward on the golf course.
The Championship and Patriot Division event was a two-day event filled with much excitement. After two-days here are our 2019 champions:
- Boys Championship Division – Bach Ngo
- Girls Championship Division – Emma Chen
- Boys 15-18 Patriot Division – James Thomas IV
- Boys 14&Under Patriot Division – Benjamin Newfield
- Girls 14&Under Patriot Division – Amelia Cho
NGO DOUBT ABOUT IT, WHAT A COME BACH?
It was an absolute comeback story for Bach Ngo of Frederick, Maryland as he fought his way back from a more than five-stroke deficit
(76-70–146) to take the 2019 Cherry Blossom Boys Championship Division title. Ngo also received the single round lowest score and was the only competitor to break par in a single round.
After the first day of competition concluded, Cockeysville, Maryland local, Joe Stover carded an opening round even-par to lead the field into the final day.
According to Stover, he really knuckled down during the last day to place himself in Top 3 contention. Stover was 4-over-par through 12 holes. His amazing push for first began on hole 13 in which he had made one birdie, then a string of birdies on holes 15-18.
However, Stovers ability to find birdies did not carry over into the next day. As Stover began to fall back, noticeably struggling to convert pars throughout his round, Ngo, a few groups in front of Stover was able to turn five birdies over four bogies into a 1-under-par final round finish to take the lead and ultimately win the championship. Stover finished tied for third (71-77–148) but lost the playoff due to his final round front nine score.
“This win definitely boosted my confidence,” Ngo said. “Up until this tournament, I hadn’t really been playing too well. But to come back and win it only makes me feel better.”
He attributed smart play and a hot putter to much of his success during his final round. He said with each bogey he knew he had to recover and make a birdie.
Ngo thanked his family for the support that they showed during the round, his fellow golfers for a fun event and UMDGC for hosting a great event.
CHEN WINS OVER HACKETT IN EMOTIONAL PLAYOFF
In an epic playoff finish for the ages, Emma Chen (Rockville, Md.) won the Girls Championship Division over Sydney Hackett (Ashburn, Va.) with a clutch 15-foot putt that had Hackett and all those spectating on their toes.
Both Girls had landed their drives off the 10th tee side-by-side. However, where Hackett had landed both of her approach shots short, Chen had caught her approach thin and chipped her ball 15 feet past the hole.
The hole would ultimately come down to one putt difference. Hackett came up short of the hole while, while Chen’s putt lipped around the cup twice before falling in.
“My heart literally leapt out of my chest with that putt,” Chen said. “I didn’t think it was going to drop.”
Chen was very happy to receive her first win of the season. She even more excited to receive so many exemptions into some of the MAPGA’s best junior golf invitationals.
“I played a bit more conservative my final round,” Chen said. “I made a lot of mistakes my first day that I made sure to learn from going into the final day.”
Coming in second was Sue Lee of Lorton, Virginia. After the opening round of the Girls Championship Division, the scores were very close and Lee led the field by three strokes with a 1-over-par 72.
Lee like most the field at UMDGC learned how to recover as she made three birdies against four bogies her first day. However, Hackett who won the annual Spring Fling at Bull Run Golf Club earlier this season was in close second trailing Lee by one stroke.
Throughout Hackett’s round, she struggled to keep the bogies away carding just as many birdies as bogies. Chen also struggled to keep the bogies away her first day carding a 4-over-par. Chen ended her first round with an emotional double-bogey on the 18th which placed her in a three-way tie for third place going into the final day.
However, Chen was able to maintain her composure during the final day making three birdies against four bogies.
Lee struggled to convert pars during the front nine of her final round. Lee carded six bogies in her front nine against one birdie to quickly fall out of the lead (72-76–148).
Meanwhile, Hackett remained consistent scoring a 74 (3-over-par) to finish 5-over-par (73-74–147) to go into a playoff against Chen (75-72–147).
PATRIOT DIVISION BOYS NEWFIELD/ THOMAS WIN SOLO LEAD UNCONTESTED
Although the field was small for the Boys 15-18 Patriot Division James Thomas IV (Fairfax, Va.) came to play carding a 5-over-par, 76 during his opening round and leading the field by more than 20 strokes.
During the final round Thomas experienced a little difficulty matching his opening round performance as he posted a 13-over-par during his final round.
According to Thomas, he knew he opened strong, with conservative tee shots off the tee. However, he switched to more of an aggressive approach during his final round trying to match his scores from the day earlier.
“I struggled to find the fairway during the final day and that hurt me in the long run,” Thomas said. “My putting didn’t help either.”
He was relived that he played conservative the first day and said this tournament. He thanked his parent and his coach for helping him earn this win. Thomas looks forward to future events with the Tour and hopes continue strong throughout the season.
Benjamin Newfield has had much success on the MAPGA Junior Tour stage since starting in 2015. Since his start he has placed Top 3 in more than 20 events and has won more than half of his starts.
This win is a welcome addition to his resume as it is his 3rd first place finish since joining the 18 hole tours. Newfield led his age division in birdies, carding six in his opening round and two more in his final round.
He opened the first day with an even-par (71), joining only four other golfers out of a field of 90 to shoot par or better over the course of the two day event. He finished with a tournament total of 3-over-par (71-74–145).
“I just put myself in position off the tee to give myself a chance at par or better,” Newfield said. “During my opening round I was able to knock down a lot of putts and that helped my score.”
Newfield won over Bennett Espenshade by one-stroke (74-71–145) as Espenshade fired back at Newfield with even-par of his own during his final round.
Espenshade struggled his first day to convert pars his first day but played much more conservative off the tee the second day. He finished his final round with two birdies against two bogies to come just shy of a playoff against Newfield.
CHO FIRES LOW ROUND TO WIN OVER FIELD
In the Girls Patriot 14 & Under Division, Amelia Cho (Ashburn, Va.) posted a two-day total 10-over-par (79-73–152) to win her division and she couldn’t be happier. A part from getting to spend two days on the golf course with her friends, she also won her first MAPGA Junior Tour Event. And in spectacular fashion, we might add.
Cho appeared to have been feeling out the course the first day as she carded an 8-over-par her first day. However, it was her final round where she truly shined. She opened her final round with a 3-over par on the front and then proceeded to have a bogey-free back nine with one birdie on the back nine.
She was behind by one stroke after the first day but truly turned up the heat on her competition with a 2-over-par final round finish.
“I wasn’t really worrying about my score or how my friends were playing,” Cho said. “I was just out on the course having fun.”
Cho shows us all golf can be fun and competitive. Congratulation on your win!
We want to thank Brian Dix and Jeff Maynor of the University of Maryland Golf Course and their staff for helping us put on a great event.