Sisson, Chen win titles at Golfweek International Junior

Sisson, Chen win titles at Golfweek International Junior

Junior

Sisson, Chen win titles at Golfweek International Junior

Final leaderboard

• • •

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Jeremy Sisson is a high school senior who up to now has flown quietly beneath the radar of many college coaches. His performance this past weekend in the Golfweek International Junior Invitational, though, may influence some of those coaches to re-open their recruiting for next season.

Riding a hot wedge and a newly-discovered discipline off the tee, Sisson posted rounds of 69-66 to shoot 5-under 135 in beating Michael Thorbjornsen by one shot at Innisbrook Resort’s North Course.

“I’m not committed to any college,” said Sisson, a resident of Skaneateles, N.Y. ,and currently a student at the Junior Players Golf Academy in Hilton Head Island, S.C. “I started with college (recruiting) in the middle of my junior year – I didn’t really think about it that much up to then. I’ve developed a lot since then.”

Sisson has developed enough to outlast the No. 41 ranked boys player (Thorbjornsen) in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and a field loaded with other highly-ranked players. Himself ranked No. 513, Sisson has positioned himself quite nicely the past several events in garnering some well-deserved attention. His two rounds at Innisbrook pushed his string of consecutive competitive rounds at par or better to seven that include a 10th-place finish at the Billy Horschel Junior Championship and runner-up finish at the Hilton Head Junior Shootout.

But winning at Innisbrook signaled a coming-out party of sorts for Sisson, who was forced to tame his usual aggressiveness in favor of a more cerebral approach to the North Course’s tight fairways and microscopic greens. Hitting driver just twice in the final round, Sisson opted for his trusty 3-iron off the tee to set him up with some comfortable wedge shots easily parlayed into multiple birdies.

“I don’t like (keeping the driver in the bag), but since I love that 3-iron so much it didn’t bother me as much,” Sisson said. “It’s my favorite club off the tee. I hit the driver three times in the first round and in this round I hit it twice. I never would have done that before.”

Innisbrook’s tight fairways demanded Sisson play most holes with the 3-iron he says he can hit 240 yards of carry. That helped him to a birdie-birdie start in the final round as he hit a 9-iron to 10 feet then a 58-degree wedge to three feet. After two bogeys on the next two holes, Sisson found the water at No. 5, but was able to scramble to save par by sinking a 25-footer and keep him just one shot off Thorbjornsen, who played the first six holes in 3-under from the group ahead.

“I had no clue (about Thorbjornsen’s play in front),” Sisson said. “I assumed somebody else was playing really well. Someone at the academy knew of (Thorbjornsen) and how good he was – You know anything can happen so you know every shot counts.

“I was just trying to settle myself down because I know I’m hitting it well. I didn’t want to lose the tournament by making bad decisions.”

At the sharp dogleg par-5 eighth, Sisson again found trouble when he blasted his 5-wood way right. His recovery shot went through the fairway and his approach over the green. Calmly, Sisson saved his par and pulled even with Thorbjornsen.

A wedge to one foot at No. 10 set up a birdie, then a two-putt birdie at the par-5 13th had him in the lead. On No. 14, a 390-yard par-4 with water protecting a heavily-sloped green, Sisson rolled in a 45-foot bomb for birdie that sent shockwaves through the field.

When he saved par from the bunker at 17, he had no idea how big that moment was at the time. Thorbjornsen had birdied 14 and 16 and would fire a 4-under-par 66, meaning Sisson’s final 14 holes in bogey-free 4-under were critical.

“My goal coming into this season at JPGA was to win this tournament,” Sisson said. “We worked towards figuring out what shots I can play and what’s consistent, so we stuck with the fade because that’s what worked.

“I’ve been playing well so it feels good have my game finally come together. With my tee shots, I’ve eliminated the big number by avoiding the big misses. I’m a very aggressive player – I realy like going for every green and taking my driver out on every hole, but I’m understanding golf management better.”

Thorbjornsen, a resident of Wellesley, Mass., finished alone in second at 70-66—136 followed by Singapore’s Hiroshi Tai (71-68—139) and Taiwan’s Wang Wei-Hsuan (70-69—139).

Rounding out the top 5 were Lake Mary, Fla.’s Johnny Bai (73-68—141) and Rome, Italy’s Simone Colozza (72-69—141).

• • •

Chen defends her title in Girls division

Ching-Tzu Chen became the first player to successful defend a title in the Golfweek International Junior Invitational since current LPGA Tour player Stephanie Meadow accomplished the feat in 2009.

Chen, a Taiwan national and a junior at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., shot a 7-under-par 68-67—135 at Innisbrook Resort’s South Course in defeating Jingzhi Deng by one shot. She needed to sink a nasty downhill 4-foot breaker on the last hole to seal the victory.

“There was a lot of pressure (on the final putt),” Chen said. “It feels really good to defend a championship.”

From a golfing standpoint, the year since her 2016 International win at Walt Disney World has been less than memorable. Working on her language skills and struggling between golf and academics in a new country, Chen failed to win any championships. That all changed Sunday.

“During the year, I tried a lot of things,” Chen said. “The most important thing is the way I practice – I try to challenge myself more in practice, try to put more pressure on myself so when you’re playing in a tournament you will not get afraid.”

Undaunted by the pressure not only to defend her title, but simply win in general, Chen started the final round one shot behind Deng then made birdies at 1 and 3 to take the early lead, which would go back and forth the entire day.

Chen made birdie at 5, but suffered bogeys at 4 and 9 while Deng made double bogey at the ninth to put the two players tied into the 10th. Birdies at 11, 13 and 14 put Deng two shots in front, but Chen was making no mistakes and keeping the pressure on.

After missing a golden opportunity for birdie at the 14th when she missed a 10-footer, Chen kept her composure at the par-5 15th. Playing conservatively unlike the day before, Chen laid up to 80 yards on her second shot then hit her approach to one foot, setting up and easy birdie and 2-shot swing against Deng, who made bogey on the hole.

“On No. 14 I thought maybe I don’t have the chance to win the championship, then I changed my mind,” said Chen, who at that moment willed herself from dejected to determined.

At the 170-yard par-3 16th, Chen drilled a 6-iron to 12 feet and followed that up with a successful birdie putt and the outright lead she would not relinquish. On the closing nine, Chen played bogey-free 3-under to seal the victory.

“My iron shots into the greens were my best part,” Chen said. “The last two days I tried to avoid spots where it was easy to make bogey or worse and focus more on which part is easier to get a birdie.”

Firing away from the trouble and embracing a higher comfort level under pressure, Chen carded birdie on 12 of the 36 holes this week and held off a field that included 10 players ranked in the top-100 of Golfweek/Sagarin.

Deng, a resident of Beijing, China and currently ranked No. 197, finished alone in second place with rounds of 67-69—136.

Seoul, South Korea’s Annie Kim (ranked No. 119), posted five birdies through the first 13 holes and held the lead at that point before bogeys at 14 and 16 sent her to a third-place finish with a score of 68-69—137.

Rounding out the top 5 were White Plains, Md.’s Bailey Davis (No. 234) at 71-70—141 and Japan’s Kotona Izumida (No. 63) at 74-67—141.

South Korea’s YoonMin Han fired the round of the tournament Sunday with seven birdies en route to a 65 and sixth-place finish at 142.

• • •

Scores

Golfweek International Junior Invitational

Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Fla.

Par 70/71, Nov. 4-5

BOYS (NORTH COURSE/PAR 70)

  1. Jeremy Sisson 69-66–135
  2. Michael Thorbjornsen 70-66–136
  3. Hiroshi Tai 71-68–139
  4. Wang Wei-Hsuan 70-69–139
  5. Johnny Bai 73-68–141
  6. Simone Colozza 72-69–141
  7. Clay Stirsman 72-70–142
  8. Ian Peng 69-73–142
  9. Tianyu Wu 69-73–142
  10. Egor Zotov 72-71–143
  11. Alexandre Liu 72-71–143
  12. Zubin Chandra 74-69–143
  13. Clayton Tribus 75-69–144
  14. Keaton Veillette 71-74–145
  15. Jack O’Donnell 73-72–145
  16. Pieter DeGroot 75-70–145
  17. Pyae Phyo Thu 73-72–145
  18. William Parker 74-71–145
  19. Artem Yalovenko 72-74–146
  20. Brandon McBride 74-72–146
  21. George Duangmanee 73-73–146
  22. T. Andrew DiPetrillo 75-71–146
  23. Takafumi Shimoji 75-71–146
  24. Ryan Pongrac 76-70–146
  25. Aidan McCloskey 72-75–147
  26. Carson Bacha 74-73–147
  27. Dean Naime 75-72–147
  28. Niels Schmidlin 75-72–147
  29. Thomas Pfoestl 77-70–147
  30. Ty Sullivan 75-73–148
  31. William Hartford 74-74–148
  32. Taiki MIshima 77-71–148
  33. Jackson Chandler 76-72–148
  34. Aaron Du 73-76–149
  35. Matthew Yamin 79-70–149
  36. Hank Lierz 77-73–150
  37. Matthew Pulgini 76-74–150
  38. Zack Hopkins 77-73–150
  39. Shiv Kaura 74-77–151
  40. David Hu 83-68–151
  41. Gabriel Restrepo 77-74–151
  42. Guillermo Casares 76-75–151
  43. Yuxuan Song 75-77–152
  44. Christian Dyas 79-73–152
  45. Diego Buttironi 76-77–153
  46. Dongjin Park 76-77–153
  47. John Updike 79-74–153
  48. Lucas Scherf 77-76–153
  49. Christian Wentzel 79-75–154
  50. Danny Nguyen 73-81–154
  51. Jack Hughes 76-78–154
  52. Zesen Hu 73-81–154
  53. Eric Berggren 74-80–154
  54. Evan Owan 74-80–154
  55. Jason Quinlan 74-80–154
  56. Gregory Shen 76-78–154
  57. Andrew Choi 76-79–155
  58. Taichi Kunieda 76-79–155
  59. John Daly 76-79–155
  60. Natheethorn Teacharuangchit 75-81–156
  61. Will Ellegard 79-77–156
  62. Luis Felipe Forero 78-79–157
  63. Kuangyu Chen 81-76–157
  64. Jacob Tarkany 79-79–158
  65. Wonjun Choi 79-79–158
  66. Jack Tucker 74-85–159
  67. Morgan Tournemire 81-78–159
  68. Tannor Nairn 78-81–159
  69. Ugen Dorji 77-82–159
  70. Nolan Forsman 79-81–160
  71. A.J. Gilpin 83-78–161
  72. Mikus Ming 77-84–161
  73. Johnny Bush 83-79–162
  74. Arthur Draijer 88-75–163
  75. Dominic Carrera 83-81–164
  76. Joshua Braverman 79-85–164
  77. Tyden Wilson 85-79–164
  78. Yuvraajbir Singh Sodhi 86-78–164
  79. Shuang (Tony) Liu 81-84–165
  80. Yujun Chen 86-91–177

GIRLS (SOUTH COURSE/PAR 71)

  1. Chen Ching Tzu 68-67–135
  2. Jingzhi Deng 67-69–136
  3. Annie Kim 68-69–137
  4. Bailey Davis 71-70–141
  5. Kotona Izumida 74-67–141
  6. YoonMin Han 77-65–142
  7. Anne Yu 68-75–143
  8. Meiyi Yan 68-75–143
  9. Isabella Cardenas 75-69–144
  10. Latanna Stone 74-70–144
  11. Thin Wai Khaing 70-75–145
  12. Phu Pwint Khine 74-72–146
  13. Anna Foster 76-71–147
  14. Kanyanat Saithip 76-71–147
  15. Claire Jeon 78-70–148
  16. Emily Hawkins 69-79–148
  17. Kynadie Adams 74-74–148
  18. Emma Zhao 75-74–149
  19. Jocelyn Bruch 76-73–149
  20. Savannah Hylton 74-75–149
  21. Sophia Burnett 74-75–149
  22. Vanessa Richani 75-74–149
  23. Brooke Boardman 75-75–150
  24. Pin-Wen (Nicole) Lu 76-74–150
  25. Katharina Hesse 73-78–151
  26. Kokoro Ouchi 76-75–151
  27. Tiana Cruz 75-76–151
  28. Auston Kim 77-75–152
  29. Jessie Kweon 79-74–153
  30. Manhua Chen 78-75–153
  31. Minny Byun 77-76–153
  32. Simar Singh 75-78–153
  33. Maggie Pietila 78-77–155
  34. Zhiying (Cindy) Zhou 78-77–155
  35. Sophie Simon 81-75–156
  36. YingTing Hsieh 79-77–156
  37. Yoko Tai 80-76–156
  38. Emily Cohen 78-80–158
  39. Mariya Savchenko 79-79–158
  40. Therese Warner 79-79–158
  41. Tracy Lee 82-76–158
  42. Cynthia Tu 79-81–160
  43. Megan Furtney 80-80–160
  44. Annie Pietila 85-79–164
  45. Haeri Lee 82-82–164
  46. Georgia Ruffolo 80-85–165
  47. Camila Burnett 83-85–168

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