Birch Ridge hosts Junior Masters

Sudden, inconvenient, unexpected growth spurts are to be expected when dealing with junior golfers.

It’s just that the shooting up usually occurs in height, and not the length of the driver shaft.

But Ben Broyles, a 12-year-old from Anchorage, had to lengthen his driver shaft unexpectedly in the days leading up to the Birch Ridge Junior Masters. He still prevailed in the boys 10- through 12-year-old age division Monday and Tuesday at Birch Ridge Golf Course.

The Birch Ridge Junior Masters is third of four majors, or two-day tournaments, put on by the Alaska Junior Golf Association. Birch Ridge also will host the last major — the State Junior Championship — on Aug. 3 and 4.

Broyles, whose home course is Anchorage Golf Course, arrived at Birch Ridge on Saturday and snapped his old driver shaft on the first tee of a practice round. So he got a regular-length driver shift to affix to his driver head, but that was 3 or 4 inches longer than his old shaft — rising to his chin instead of his chest.

“It was really powerful, but hard to handle,” Broyles said.

When at the range, Broyles focused on driver, hitting about half of his shots with the club. As a result, the distance on his drive increased from 200 to 220 yards, and he got to the point where he could hit the fairway nine out of 10 times.

It was just enough for Broyles to hold off rival Wyatt Ellis, also of Anchorage, in the tournament. Ellis took the lead after the first day of the tournament with a nine-hole round of 42 to the 43 of Broyles, but Broyles came back with a 36 on Tuesday to the 41 of Ellis.

“We go back and forth,” Broyles said of Ellis. “When he beats me, I’ll get mad and practice and practice. When I beat him, he’ll get mad and practice and practice.

“I know he’s fired up right now. I’ll have to practice to stay ahead of him.”

In the boys 13- to 15-year-old division, Sullivan Menard, who will be a freshman at Colony High School, had a two-day total of 162 to top the 171 of Jack Newell and Baron Farrell. Farrell took second in a one-hole playoff.

“This was a good tournament with a lot of kids — a lot of good players,” said Menard, whose home course is Settlers Bay.

Menard said the key to his win was consistency, particularly with the driver.

Sam Klein of Birch Ridge Golf Course and Brody Vecera of Anchorage Golf Course won the other two boys divisions.

Klein was the only player in the 9-and-under division and carded nine-hole rounds of 51 and 59 for a 110.

Vecera had rounds of 89 and 81 for a 170, while the only other player in his division — Dustin Day — finished at 205.

Vecera, who will be a junior at South High, picked up his first major win this year. At a major in mid-June, a player had a final-round 72 to beat him.

After starting with an 89 on Monday, Vecera was happy with the 81 on Tuesday. He said the elevation changes and blind shots the characterize Birch Ridge normally give him trouble, so that made the 81 even sweeter.

“I want to get a college golf scholarship or at least play golf in college, but I’ve still got a ways to go,” Vecera said.

In girls play, Anika and Katelin Richards, sisters from Kenai, continued to show their superiority in statewide play.

Anika, who will be a sixth-grader at Kenai Middle School, won the girls 11- to 13-year-old division with nine-hole rounds of 50 and 47. Katelin, who will be in eighth grade at Kenai Middle, won the girls 14- to 18-year-old division with rounds of 84 and 83.

Katelin is actually only 13 years old, but after Katelin topped Anika at the season-opening Valley Open at Palmer Golf Course on June 1, the two talked afterward and decided Katelin would move up an age group so the sisters would not have to play each other.

Anika was happy with her rounds, with some exceptions.

“I tried a couple of flop shots that didn’t go so well,” she said. “One of them I bladed — it was really bad.”

But she was happy to compete in a major on her home course, and added the greens at the course are in great shape. She noted the Alaska golf pros have voted the greens the best in the state for six straight years now.

Katelin’s round of 83 on Tuesday was her best in tournament golf, but she was hoping it would be closer to the 78 that stands as her best round in any type of play.

With two holes left, she made the mistake of checking her score and seeing how well she was doing. Instead of closing with the birdie and par for which she was aiming, she had a six and a five.

“If I have a bad shot, I just need to let it go and focus on the next one,” Katelin said.

She said she still feels she has a low round in her at the State Junior Championship as long as she shores up her shots from 60 to 80 yards and her chipping.

Karly Ellis of Anchorage Golf Course was the top player in the girls 10-and-under division, with nine-hole rounds of 59 and 67.

The Birch Ridge Junior Masters also counted for a team competition amongst the Valley, Peninsula and Anchorage courses. The team competition is put together by Travis Jorgenson of Fishhook Golf Course in Palmer. Jorgenson, also the president of the Valley Golf Association, said the team competition adds another element of fun for the players. The team competition will come to an end at the State Junior Championship with a special nine holes of team play after the tournament is over.

In addition, Jorgenson said he is using the points accumulated in team play to determine an all-star team of individuals that will travel to Hawaii to play a junior golf team there.

“I’ll do whatever I can to make golf mean something to the kids,” Jorgenson said. “Without them, golf is dying.”


Birch Ridge Junior Masters

Monday, Tuesday at Birch Ridge

Girls 10 and under (9 each day)

Karly Ellis 59-67—126

Keely Sundberg 76-62—138

Girls 11 to 13 (9 each day)

Anika Richards 50-47—97

Madyson Covey 51-54—105

Julieann Nye 65-69—134

Jolie Widaman 70-65—135

Girls 14 to 18 (18 each day)

Katelin Richards 84-83—167

Cianna Jorgenson 93-88—181

Aliann Schmidt 94-96—190

Danica Schmidt 97-108—205

Boys 9 and under (9 each day)

Sam Klein 51-59—110

Boys 10 to 12 (9 each day)

Ben Broyles 43-36—79

Wyatt Ellis 42-41—83

Shane Sundberg 46-43—89

Justin Covey 64-57—121

Keegan Mattson 62-64—126

Caleb Tachick 65-69—134

Boys 13 to 15 (18 each day)

Sullivan Menard 81-81—162

Baron Farrell 85-86—171

Jack Newell 83-88—171

Hudson Jackson 91-92—183

Brock Kant 94-105—199

Lance Kramer 115-107—222

Zack Day 126-122—248

Boys 16 to 18 (18 each day)

Brody Vecera 89-81—170

Dustin Day 100-105—205

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect the correct winner of the boys 13- to 15-year-old age division.

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