McDonald-Smith Holds His Ground, Wins by Five at Lessing's AJGA Classic
Courtney Hooton comes from behind in Girls Division to win at Long Island National Golf Club
Riverhead, N.Y. — Xander McDonald-Smith of Rockaway Park, N.Y., never surrendered his spot atop the leaderboard, closing with a 2-under-par 69 Thursday to finish five shots clear of the field. In the Girls Division, Courtney Hooton of Del Mar, Calif., used a 2-under-par 69 to clinch the come-from-behind victory.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Lessing's AJGA Classic was a 54-hole stroke play event held at Long Island National Golf Club. The field featured 74 boys and 22 girls, ages 12-18, from 15 states, Canada and Thailand. The par-71 course played at 6,776 yards in the Boys Division and 6,030 yards in the Girls Division.
From the start of the day, McDonald-Smith was poised to recapture the success he found in the first round when he posted a 65 with no bogeys. And with three birdies through 10 holes, he was well on his way. However, when coming down the final stretch, the thought of winning really set in.
“It started to get to my head. When I got over my drive on No. 15, I was just like, ‘wow I'm winning.' Then, I hit a duck hook but I saved bogey there,” McDonald-Smith said with a laugh. “I just tried to relax and stay aggressive and forget about the score.”
From there McDonald-Smith went par, par, birdie to close with a 69 and finish at 6-under-par 207.
“Yesterday was tough because it felt like I had to shoot 65 again,” McDonald-Smith said. “Today, I was more relaxed. I was 2-over yesterday, so I said I can do it. I just needed to go out and do it.”
Brian Tohir of New Canaan, Conn., moved from fourth to second with a 3-under-par 68 to finish with a three-day total of 212. Michael Chen of Bradenton, Fla., finished third at 1-over-par 214. Tied for fourth at 3-over-par 216 were Peter Scialabba of Oyster Bay, N.Y., and Brian Alle of Pacific Palasades, Calif.
Hooton picked the perfect time to deliver her best round of the summer. After not having a round under par in several months, Hooton posted a 2-under-par 69 to turn a three-shot deficit into a four-shot win.
Hooton quickly closed the gap to one with birdies on her first two holes of the day. After carding seven straight pars, a near lost ball on the par-5 No. 10 almost set Hooton back but she held her ground and escaped with a bogey. Hooton then responded immediately with a birdie on No. 11 and one more time, carded seven straight pars to cruise her way to victory.
“I'm really excited [to have won],” she said. “I remember last summer when I came in fourth, I remembered seeing the winner's picture on the internet and I said, ‘I just want my picture there.' So I'm really excited about it. It means a lot to win.”
First-round leader Jordan Lippetz of Bradenton, Fla, took second at 7-over-par 220 and Thanya Pattamakijsakul of Nonthaburi, Thailand finished third.
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships, and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 49 states and 30 countries. To ensure scholarship opportunities for all junior golfers who have the skill, the AJGA created the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant program to provide financial assistance to young players in need.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which is in its third decade of AJGA support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Polo Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 400 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.
For more information about the Lessing's AJGA Classic, please contact AJGA National Headquarters at 770-868-4200.