Tournament of Champions at Penn State
BJGT Tour Championship
State College, Pennsylvania — July 13th, 2020 — Buckeye Junior Golf Tour held its first ever Tour Championship at the one and only Penn State Golf Courses-Blue Course. The courses at Penn State provided us with a perfect central location for all of our past tournament winners and qualifiers to make the trip to play against top notch competition. The amenities at this course are second to none and offered our players the chance to play at an elite college level course. It was the best tournament of our 3 years of existence, keep reading below to find out why!
Round 1 – Saturday, July 11th — Happy Valley made for some of the most bizarre weather we have seen on tour. Some rain here, a little sunshine there, more rain, heavy winds…our players had themselves a full day of unpredictable weather. The Older Boys started off our early morning tee times. The Boys were cruising along until they found the Par-3 8th-hole. The 17-handicap on Hole-8 is clearly misleading, especially from the Buckeye-Black Tees. Playing 210-Yards, this very long Par-3 helped us to reach an overall yardage of 6,950 Yards from the Buckeye-Black Tees. 4 Bunkers sit on the hole, 2 to the left with OB looming and 2 to the right with giant hilly grass traps. You must have the distance and control to hit this green just right. Only 20% of the field picked up a par. Players were able to bounce back on the next hole though, as it played the easiest in Round 1. A very common theme on the Blue-Course, 5 Bunkers sit on Hole-9. To be honest, only 1 really comes into play on the 516-Yarder. Hitting a drive over 250-yards provides you with the perfect opportunity to attack the very shallow dog-leg. Then you have a nice easy shot into the hole where a large bunker on the left is your only worry. Seth Callaway, a staple on the Buckeye Junior Golf Tour, played the hole in perfect fashion gaining at least a stroke on the rest of the field by earning the only Eagle. Seth has been playing on tour for 3 years and has 2 Runner-Up finishes, one in 2018 at our State vs State tournament in Cincinnati and the other in 2019 at the Kalamazoo Junior Championship. Derek McGlaughlin from Elizabethtown, PA was absolutely dominate in Round 1. Derek earned a qualifying spot in the Tour Championship from a Lancaster Junior Golf Tour Tournament Qualifier. Derek shot a Round 1, 71, leading the Boys Division by 4 Strokes. Reese Watson from Mechanicsburg, PA followed closely in 2nd-place with a Round 1, 75. Reese has played in Buckeye events the past 3 years. He earned his qualifying spot in the Tour Championship with his 2020 Champion finish at the Baltimore Junior Golf Shootout at Oakmont Green.
Second on the tee were the Younger Boys. The Boys 10-14 Division is known for their great pace of play and even better attitudes. They always arrive at starting with a smile on their face and ready to go. Once again, Hole-8 showed its teeth. It was the toughest Hole in Round 1 for the Younger Boys as well. Its handicap needs to be reassessed; we just can’t get behind naming this hole as the second easiest on the course. Dylan Ramsey from Lebanon, PA might disagree however, he was the only player from the Younger Boys that found a Birdie. Dylan earned himself a qualifying spot into the Tour Championship from the Lancaster County Junior Golf Tour. Dylan couldn’t be stopped all day landing at the top of the Leaderboard after Round 1 and achieving a personal best in tournament play with a Round 1, 74. Hole-2 played the easiest for the Younger Boys in Round 1. The Boys started off strong with this semi-difficult hole. The hole’s main defense comes in the form of the tree lined fairway. Going left or right will make you work extra hard for a Par and if you end up left, your approach will be over a small pond near the green. Dylan “The Ram” Ramsey was headbutting his way to the top early in the Round by picking up the only Birdie again on Hole 2. Tyler Fortney from Fayatteville, PA kept a close watch on Dylan. He came in with Round 1, 74 and sat at 2nd-place. Tyler earned his qualifying spot into the Tour Championship with this Champion finish at the Baltimore Junior Golf Shootout back in May.
The winds started whipping a little stronger and some slight showers started to fall as our Girls 14-19 Division teed off. The Girls were our only Division really playing all the holes to their true handicap. With that being said the hardest hole on the Course, Hole-3, played the toughest for the Girls in Round 1. The hole was made even more difficult as the rain really started to come down as the majority of the Girls started the hole. Once again, 5 Bunkers are placed strategically throughout the hole. Going short into the green is a big no-no as 3 of the Bunkers are placed right on the front side of this large green. Clubbing up and trying to land on the backside is probably the best option. Only about 20% of the field was able to pick up a par. The Girls were left wondering what all the fuss was about on Hole-8 because they absolutely dominated this Par-3 in Round 1. I guess maybe it is the 2nd-easiest hole on the course after all. McKylie Boreman from New Cumberland, PA was one of 2 players that Birdied Hole-8. McKylie earned herself a qualifying spot with her Championship finish at the 2019 York Junior Classic. Cassidy “Birdie” Miksich from Tyrone, PA earned the 2nd Birdie on the hole. Cassidy lives right around the corner in Tyrone. Cassidy actually led the entire division in Par Breakers throughout the tournament and she is just entering her Sophomore year of high school. Cassidy earned her qualifying spot with her Runner-Up finish at the 2020 York Junior Classic. In the end no one was better on the day than Kayla Maletto from Sinking Spring, PA. Kayla shot a Round 1, 77. Kayla earned herself a qualifying spot through one of our Lancaster County Junior Golf Tour qualifying tournaments. Sydnee Gaines from Nottingham, MD followed right behind Kayla with a Round 1, 78. Sydnee is one of the most consistent players that has ever played on Buckeye Junior Golf Tour. Sydnee earned her qualifying spot in the Tour Championship with her Championship performance at the 2020 Baltimore Junior Golf Shootout.
Round 2 – Sunday, July 12th – Round 1 had it all and we left the course wondering how things could get more exciting…Round 2 did not disappoint. Sure, it was a lot hotter than Round 1, but there were no rain clouds in sight and a slight breeze was there to cool off the players. The Older Boys took notes in Round 1 because the average strokes from the field was reduced by 2. Just like the Girls in Round 1, the Boys found Hole-3 to play the toughest for Round 2. This hole got almost everyone and unfortunately, hurt Pace of Play slightly. Hitting over the pond from the Buckeye-Black Tees can make for an intimidating tee shot. Hitting over the pond and the shear distance of 478-Yards for a Par-4 makes this hole that much harder. Derek McGlaughlin, our Round 1 Leader, continued his strong performance by being one of only 2 Players that picked up a Birdie. Alex Williams from Elizabethtown, PA was the only other player to grab one of the elusive birdies. I guess your town name has to have Elizabeth in it to play this hole well. Once again Hole-9 was the easiest in Round 2. Birdies galore and even one Eagle was found by Connor Strine from Lancaster, PA. Connor earned his spot into the Tour Championship by coming in as a playoff Champion at the highly competitive 2020 York Junior Golf Classic. In the end, the group to watch was our final pairing of Derek McGlaughlin, Reese Watson and Michael Wareham. Reese started to pickup some strokes from Derek on the Back-9. Both players made errors on Hole-17 to Bogey. McGlaughlin had the lead by 1 stroke going into the Birdeable 18th-hole. Both players were sitting on the green staring down Birdie putts, Derek further out than Reese. Would there be a playoff for our Older Boys? No. With ice in his veins, Derek McGlaughlin sunk an 8-12 foot Birdie putt to seal his Tour Championship Victory. It was an extremely exciting finish for everyone that was able to witness it. Reese and Derek know each other from high school golf and showed some great sportsmanship at the end. We asked Derek what was so great about his win and his response “Reese got me at Districts this year so it was great to able to pull this one out.” Reese took the loss extremely well, congratulating Derek on a job well done. Derek had some really impressive key stats the surged him to his Tour Champions victory. Derek had the most Par-Breakers by far in his Division, with 9. Derek also absolutely dominated the Par-5’s, going -6 on them in 2 Rounds. Derek’s main key to success though was his play on the much harder Front-9. Derek shot at least 3 shots better on the Front than his nearest competitor reinforcing his place at the top of the Leaderboard. Huge congratulations to Derek McGlaughlin on being crowned the first ever BJGT Tour Championship Winner! Reese Watson, what else can we say about one of the most consistent players on Tour. Reese has come a long way since his 6th place finish his Sophomore Year at the 2018 York Junior Classic. Reese had one of the most important stats to claim in a tournament this weekend, Most Pars, with 27. Reese also finished extremely strong both days with an Even on the Back-9 throughout the tournament. Reese started inching back on Derek with his Bogey Free Streak of 13 Holes from Hole 4 to Hole 16 in Round 2. We wish Reese the best of luck as he continues his playing career at California University of Pennsylvania. Great Job Reese!
We thought there was no way things could get more exciting than the Older Boys finish, we were so wrong. Hole-10 played the hardest for our Boys 10-14 in Round 2. Hole-10 is tough for a couple of reasons. There is a huge 50-yard bunker that sits on the left edge of the fairway. From the Buckeye-White tees it sits right in that range. You are going to have to play into the green on the right side because there are 2 other large bunkers sitting on the left front and left back of the green. Just stay to the right side of the hole and you can earn yourself a Par. Tyler Fortney started planning his comeback on Dylan Ramsey on this hole, picking up the only Birdie. Maybe the best performance of the Tournament was the Younger Boys play of Hole-9 in Round 2. As a field, they went Under-Par. Great job boys! Luke McGraw from right down the road in Boalsburg, PA was the key for this stat, picking up the only Birdie as the rest of the players in the Field had Pars. Tyler Fortney only down 2 strokes from Dylan to start the Round made a valiant comeback on the Back-9. Both Dylan and Tyler were tied going into Hole-18. Spectators gathered to witness who would come out on top. Both boys landed on the Green with their approach shot but Dylan was out and had to put first. BOOOOOOM! Dylan sinks a 20-foot putt to Birdie the hole putting the pressure right back on Tyler. Tyler, cool, calm and collectively reads his 10-foot putt like a boss and sinks it. PLAYOFF! What more could we ask for in a Tour Championship?! The Boys head back to the tee box on Hole-18 to replay the hole. The Boys go shot for shot landing on the green in similar spots. Tyler Fortney lips out a deep putt for Birdie and settles for Par. It’s all up to Dylan. He takes his putter back and just barely rolls the ball over the hole. Back to 18 tee box we go. Déjà vu; the Boys play almost the exact same shots until their 3rd. Dylan Ramsey pinpoints his pitching wedge and puts the ball right next to the hole. Tyler needed a little more distance on his and has to settle for around a 20-footer to make Birdie and keep this playoff alive. Tyler just barely misses the cup and settles for Par. Dylan Ramsey with nerves of steel and the eye of a tiger lasers his vision on the hole. The crowd falls silent. Dylan sinks the putt like the Champion he is. With a fist pump into the air and a very loud cheering section, Dylan makes the short sprint over to Mom and Dad for much deserved hugs. What an epic finish. As a spectator, it couldn’t have been more exciting and both boys were exceptional. Dylan had some key stats the led him to victory. Dylan had the most birdies in the Division with 6. The real key to Dylan’s success was just dominating the Par-5’s. We noticed Derek McGlaughlin get the Win for the Older Boys doing this and Dylan’s -1 in the tournament was more proof that this works out at Penn State. Dylan also was very consistent. He went on a Bogey Free Streak of 8 Holes in Round 1. Congratulations on one of the most exciting finishes in BJGT history Dylan. Tyler Fortney is just a fantastic player. In his 2 tournaments with BJGT he now has a Champion and Runner-Up finish. Tyler is a shot selector. He led the division in Most Pars or Better finding the right holes to Birdie and settling for Par when necessary. Tyler really wanted the win and you could tell that by him playing the Back-9 the best. Tyler is one of kind, always telling our staff thank you after tournaments and striving to be a better player week in and week out. Congratulations on another great finish Tyler!
The Girls continued their theme of playing true to handicaps by playing the 2nd-handicap, 520-Yard, Par-5, 12th-hole the worst in Round 2. Hole-12’s main defense is just the shear length of the hole. 520-yards with a crick sitting right in the middle of your layup shot is just brutal. Two of the Players at the Top of the Leaderboard, Sydnee Gaines and Rhianna Firmstone from Moon Township, PA picked up Pars along with Cassidy “Birdie” Miksich. Rhianna earned her qualifying spot in the Tour Championship with her Championship performance at the 2020 College Golf Prep Series at Cal U. (PA). Hole-11 played the easiest for the Girls in Round 2 and wouldn’t you know it, but it’s the 16th-handicap hole on the course. Hole-11 is a weird one. 4 Bunkers giant bunkers are very strategically placed throughout the hole. One of those bunkers sits dead center of the fairway. Watch Out! This is the hole’s way of getting those players that are trying to skate by and start losing focus mid-round. Kayla Maletto would continue her extremely strong performance from Round 1 picking up a Birdie along with who other than Cassidy “Birdie” Miksich. Rhianna Firmstone would post an impressive Round 2, 76, to come into the clubhouse as the Leader. Kayla Maletto was still holding strong with her lead up 1 stroke on Sydnee Gaines. There was a lot of pressure on the Girls with it being so close and with the score Rhianna just posted. Kayla Maletto played nearly perfect golf through 35-holes but 18’s lateral water hazard swallowed her ball causing her a stroke penalty. Sydnee Gaines was able to take a breather and knew that a Par just might earn her the victory. Sydnee was outstanding under pressure and earned herself that Par. Sydney is extremely consistent, rarely shooting anything worse than Par. She led her Division with 21 of them this weekend. Sydney also dominated the Par-5’s like our other Champions in the tournament, going -3 on them. Going under par on the Par-5’s was the true key to success for our Champions with every player that took home the Champion Trophy being the best in their respective Divisions on that stat. This was Sydnee’s 2nd tournament with BJGT taking home the Champion Trophy in both. Congratulations on another wonderful tournament Sydnee! Kayla Maletto and Rhianna Firmstone came in as our Co-Runner-Ups. Kayla is a Par Machine as well. She was in the zone in Round 1, going on a Bogey Free Streak of 7 holes from holes 7-13. She picked the right time to do that as those are the holes you need to Par or Birdie to be at the top of the Leaderboard. Kayla is extremely talented for her age going into her Freshman Year of High School. She is going to be earning herself many more Trophy Flags in the future. Congratulations Kayla! Rhianna Firmstone is so impressive to watch on the golf course. She really knows the game of golf and backs it up with pure talent. Rhianna’s main skills are her putting and iron game. She led the Division for Par-3 scoring. Whether she was watching the Leaderboard or not, I don’t know, but her Birdie streak on Holes-15 and 16 in Round 2 put Rhianna right in the mix late in the Round. This was Rhianna’s 3rd tournament with Buckeye earning a Champion or Runner-Up finish in each of them. Congratulations Rhianna!
We want to thank everyone for coming out to the first ever BJGT Tour Championship! It was a huge success from the players, parents, spectators and the wonderful staff at Penn State Golf Courses. We will be back next year with an even bigger field and hopefully AJGA PBE Stars to give out! Below are some upcoming events, hopefully we’ll see you soon or later this Fall when we come back to MD and Eastern PA.