Birdies Galore at Belle Vernon
Pittsburgh Junior Golf Classic
Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania September 28th, 2020 — Buckeye Junior Golf Tour held its 2nd Annual Pittsburgh Junior Golf Classic this past weekend. The tournament was once again hosted at the low-scoring Cedarbrook-Red Course and our players took advantage of the short distance of the course to knock in a ton of Birdies which resulted in the lowest average scoring tournament in Buckeye Junior Golf Tour history!
Round 1 – Saturday, September 26th — As expected, the Pittsburgh weather started off chilly. Even if BJGT came to Pittsburgh in July and hosted a tournament early in the morning, it would still be around 50 degrees to start the day. The weather perked up as the day progressed with a slight breeze allowing for ample opportunities to crush a drive and shoot well.
The hardest hole for the Boys 15-19 Division is the straight uphill, Par-4, 8th-hole. This hole only plays 324-yards, but the battle against the hills of Belle Vernon increases it by at least 40-50-yards and more and more effort is required as you navigate through each hole. Matthew Karpeal, a local from Smithfield, PA was able to reach the hole in 2-shots and was the only player in the division to pick up a Birdie. Playing true to its handicap, the Par-3, 5th-hole was the easiest hole in Round 1. It’s a short 131-yard tee shot that only asks for an easy Pitching Wedge or Gap Wedge to get to the green. Watch out though, hitting it short might put you into one of the 2 sand traps that sit on either side of the green. 4 Birdies rained down on the hole and a lot of our Boys left smiling. Jack Wright coming all the way from Johns Creek. GA led the division after Round 1, firing an Even Par, 71. Tanner Fackler making the trip from Harrisburg, in Eastern Pennsylvania and Anthony Maltony a local from Oakdale, PA were hot on Jack’s tail both carding a Round 1, 73.
The Boys 10-14 were having the most trouble with extremely difficult Par-4, 6th-hole. This is the #1 handicap hole on the course and almost everyone playing this weekend could agree that this held true. First-off, the distance of 375-yards can be hard to play for our younger divisions. This hole also dog-legs almost right in the center making the hole play 30-yards longer. If you are brave enough to take on the dog-leg on your tee shot there are 2 Bunkers sitting right off the fairway in your landing zone. A perfect tee shot is needed for at minimum a Par. Once you hit the dog-leg there is a 180-yard shot into a very small green over a pond. Hitting your shot short or to the left is going to spell disaster. Jesse Shue, our current leader in the Player of the Year Race for the Boys 10-14, and Jackson Baxter a local from Venetia, PA both got off the hole with Bogeys which actually helped them gain a stroke on the rest of the field. The easiest hole for our Younger Boys in Round 1 was also Hole-5. The entire Division was able to pick up Pars. Jesse Shue was on absolute fire in Round 1. Jesse carded a 2-under, 69, in Round 1 leading the Division. Benjamin Baker a Champion staple on BJGT was close behind Jesse hitting a 2-over, 73.
Our Girls Division was also having the most trouble with Hole-6. Erin Drahnak, a local from Glenshaw, PA was the only player to pick up a Par on this extremely tough hole gaining at least a stroke on the rest of the division and surging her to the top of the Leaderboard after Round 1 with a 73. Hole-5 played the easiest for the Boys in Round 1 and the Girls were no different. They took the opportunity to shoot low on this hole before the tough 6th with 75% of the field picking up a Par. Caroline McConnell from Bridgeville, PA, ranked in the Top 700 for Girls in the entire nation, followed closely behind Erin’s 73 shooting a 76 respectively.
Round 2 – Sunday, September 27th – Round 2 started off chilly like Saturday but heated up as the Older boys made their way through Cedarbrook Red. Hole-18 played the toughest for our Older Boys in Round 2. This is the 2nd-hardest hole on the course and you better have your mind right coming into it. A tournament can easily be won or lost and disaster can strike at any moment on the 18th. OB looms to the left so keeping your tee shot straight is key. You are also going to need some distance as the hole-plays slightly uphill. The hardest part about 18 is the plateau green. An extremely accurate shot into the green is needed, as the hole is also surrounded by bunkers on each side and on the back. You are going to want to add an extra club to make sure you get your ball there or you will have to pitch at a flagstick way above your head. In a crazy turn of events (literally this is something we have never seen on BJGT) the hole that was playing the toughest in Round 1 for our Boys, Hole-8, played the easiest in Round 2. I guess our out-of-towners got used to the hills and our locals remembered how to play straight uphill shots. Patrick Bush from right down the road in Rostraver Township, PA has played this course countless times and knew that a Birdie was possible. Patrick crushed his tee shot and picked up a Birdie on the hole leading him to a 3rd-place finish for the tournament. Jack Wright was Mr. Consistent making it impossible for anyone to catch. Jack shot a 2-under, 69, in Round 2 to finish as Champion. Jack earns his first win on tour in his first tournament with BJGT. Jack has a great attitude and demeanor that must come from Living in South. Jack’s main key to victory was his shear power. He’s not the biggest kid on tour but his +1 on the Par-4’s and -3 on the Par-5’s throughout the weekend speak for itself. Congratulations on an under-par total score and your first win on tour Jack! Tanner Fackler was able to hang on as people were making charges up the leaderboard in Round 2, to earn a Runner-Up finish. Tanner is extremely talented and played great at our Tour Championship and our College Golf Prep Series @ Gettysburg College. He deserved this flag. Tanner was actually pretty even with Jack on the stats board tying him in Most Birdies on the Back-9 and being the only other player to put together a Birdie Streak. Tanner is quiet, calm, cool and collected. He has great potential and will surely earn himself a Champion flag on BJGT very soon. Congratulations Tanner!
The Boys 10-14 Division produced a battle we were all waiting for this Season. Player of the Year Leader Jesse Shue vs. 3-time 2020 Champion Benjamin Baker. Strap on your seat belts folks because it was a good one! Once again, Hole-6 was the blow-up hole for the players in this Division. Such a tough hole to even be able to Par. Benjamin Baker was the only player to Par the hole in the Division and gained a stroke on Jesse to put the pressure on, making it only a 3-stroke lead. The easiest hole in Round 2 was once again Hole-5 which Jesse Shue Birdied maintaining his 4-stroke lead at that point. Benjamin Baker continued to chip away at Jesse’s lead and it was Hole-17 that really propelled Benjamin to his Champion finish this weekend, he gained 2-strokes on Jesse on the hole. Benjamin is unreal. He has never lost a BJGT tournament he has played in. In fact, this was Benjamin’s first weekend ever being down in a BJGT tournament. This weekend’s win came from accuracy for Benjamin. He is always extremely straight off the tee but even better with his iron play picking up 4 strokes at least on the rest of the competition on the Par-3’s. Benjamin also has a great mental game. Coming into the Back-9 both days he knew he would have to play his best golf to be able to win and did just that going Even on the Back-9. Congratulations on another win Benjamin! Jesse Shue from Columbia played his best golf we have seen to date. That says a lot coming from our Player of the Year Leader. His Round 1 performance was truly special. Jesse dominated the Par-4’s something we see out of him a lot and is one of the key stats every player needs to rank highly in a tournament. Jesse also shot an amazing -1, on the Front-9 at Cedarbrook this weekend. Congratulations on another trophy flag Jesse!
What a surprise, the Girls found Hole-6 to be playing the toughest in Round 2 with the exception of Erin Drahnak who owned Hole-6 throughout the weekend. The girls changed it up a little bit in Round 2 finding Hole-3 to be playing the easiest. This is the second easiest hole on the course. Its short 89-yard distance was no match for these sharpshooting ladies. Leave your ball short though and your going to take a SPLASH right in the pond that stretches over 55 yards of the 89-yard hole. Caroline McConnell and Grace Windfelder both threw some darts right at the hole and picked up Birdies. Caroline McConnell knew that the lead was there for the taking in Round 2 and was able to charge up the leaderboard and earn herself the Champion flag. Caroline is one of the highest ranked girls that we have ever had on our tour. She earned her Champion flag and her high national ranking through her terrific accuracy. She played the Par-3’s at least 3 strokes better than the rest of the field. Accuracy was the name of the game at Cedarbrook-Red. This course is short and the players who were the most accurate gave themselves the most chances at Birdies which is the recipe to coming out on top and Caroline did just that. Also, all of our Champions played the Back-9 the best in their respective divisions and Caroline was no different. Congratulations on your first tournament and first win on BJGT Caroline! Erin Drahnak came in as our Division Runner-Up. Erin is very consistent and played the Par-4’s the best on the weekend. She also always seems to pick up her Birdies when she has the chance leading her Division with 5. Congratulation on a fantastic first tournament Erin!
We want to thank everyone who came out and spent their weekend with us at Cedarbrook Golf Courses! The 2020 Season is starting to wind down and chances to move up the Player of the Year Leaderboard are starting to dwindle. If you are looking for a chance to win a Short Par 4 Fairway Membership for a Year by becoming a Player of the Year check out our upcoming events by clicking here!