Nearly 300 junior boys and girls from 24 different states and three countries competed in the 69th annual Donald Ross Junior Championship this week at Pinehurst.
AJ Beechler of Pinehurst took home the title in the boys 15-18 division, which was held on Pinehurst Nos. 4 & 5. With two consistent rounds of 70, he edged out first round leader Jack Parrott of Columbia, South Carolina by two shots. Beechler’s eight birdies were bested only by third place finisher Attie Giles of Pinehurst, who posted nine birdies throughout the two-day tournament. Grayson Wotnosky of Wake Forest tied for third place with a score of 143, while Connor Armistead of Charlotte rounded out the top five.
Another Pinehurst native claimed the first place title in the boys 12-14 division, played on Pinehurst No. 1. Jackson Van Paris defeated Ben Warian of Stillwater, Minnesota in a sudden death playoff after tying at 141 following two rounds. A bogey five on the first playoff hole was all Van Paris needed for the victory. Nicholas Hance of Irving, Texas, Drew Miller of Arlington, Tennessee and Narayan Mohan of Charlotte tied for third place, posting 36-hole totals of 142.
Kareem Elkassem of Raleigh claimed the top prize in the boys 11 & under division, played on Pinehurst No. 1. After finishing as runner-up last year, Elkassem was determined to take home a coveted Putter Boy trophy. He did just that, besting Sihan Sandhu of Ashburn, Virginia through two playoff holes. Sandhu’s second round 69 was the lowest score for the division. Jackson Herrington of Franklin, Tennessee took home third place prize while Greenville, South Carolina native William Jennings claimed fourth place. David Oliver IV of Pageland, South Carolina rounded out the top five.
Nineteen girls were part of Pinehurst history as they competed in the inaugural Donald Ross Junior girls field. Gracyn Burgess of Lexington, South Carolina took home the girls 15-18 title, narrowly defeating Kathryn Carson of Mooresville. Burgess entered the final two holes with a five stroke lead and played them at +4 to earn her title. Belmont native Taylor Hinson finished third.
Sisters Amelia and Emma Shen of Tenfly, New Jersey were both victorious in their respective divisions. Amelia topped the 11 & under field while sister Emma led the 12-14 division. Boonyanant Rujiranan of Southern Pines was the runner-up in the 11 & under field while Addison Klonowski of Naples, Florida finished third. Rounding out the 12-14 division was Katharina Floyd of Chapel Hill and Mara Hirtle of Pinehust who finished second and third, respectively.