Gregory Lee, Sydney Bryan capture West Coast Junior Invitational titles

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Gregory Lee, Sydney Bryan capture West Coast Junior Invitational titles

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Gregory Lee, Sydney Bryan capture West Coast Junior Invitational titles

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MESA, Ariz. – Falling behind early may have been a good thing after all for Gregory Lee. Seeing a 1-shot deficit in the final round of the Golfweek West Coast Junior Invitational at Mesa Country Club balloon to four shots over the first two holes, Lee changed tact and relieved of himself of any pressure he may have felt before.

Lee, a freshman from San Jose, Calif., who entered the tournament ranked No. 518 in Golfweek/Sagarin, parlayed his settled nerves into a final-round 3-under 69 that earned him a 2-shot victory in the event and subsequent automatic invitation to the Golfweek International Junior Invitational this November.

Gregory Lee of San Jose, Calif. won the boys division of the Golfweek West Coast Junior Invitational at Mesa Country Club on May 19, 2019. Photo: Golfweek

After a par-bogey start Sunday next to Brayden Bozak’s birdie-birdie start, Lee saw his chances of winning sliding by, but that only served to make his game better.

“If I was tight with him at the start, I probably would have tensed up a little more,” Lee said. “I was just relaxed by that time on focused on beating him.”

Lee would go on to birdie the third and fifth holes while Bozak remained hot at 3-under through five. But over the next 11 holes, Bozak would struggle with five bogeys and no pars while Lee posted birdies at 7, 15 and 18 to seal the win.

A major sigh of relief came at the par-3 14th where Lee hit his tee shot long and left. When he hit his 20-yard chip shot thin he was certain to go way past the hole with not much of a chance to salvage par. Luckily, his shot took one hop, bounced in and out of the hole and rested just two feet away leaving him with a short par putt and still in possession of the lead.

“I got really lucky on a couple of chips – that was one of the key moments.”

Lee finished with rounds of 72-69—141 while Alejandro de Zavala, playing in the group ahead of Lee and Bozak shot 72-71—143 to claim sole possession of second place.

Bozak finished at 71-73—144 to finish in a tie for third with Anawin Pikulthong (72-72—144).

An eagle at the par-5 fifth sparked de Zavala’s charge and he made a critical birdie at the par-3 16th to apply pressure to the final group.

Like Bozak, Pikulthong started hot by playing the first eight holes in bogey-free 2-under-par, but a bogey at 9 and triple bogey at 11 outweighed three birdies on the closing nine.

Bryan captures Girls title

Mesa’s Sydney Bryan needed all five birdies she made during Sunday’s final round in winning the girls division of the Golfweek West Coast Junior Invitational. Those five birdies offset the five bogeys she incurred during an up-and-down final round which also saw the withdrawal of first-round leader Ashley Menne due to an injury.

Sydney Bryan of Mesa won the girls division of the Golfweek West Coast Junior Invitational at Mesa Country Club on May 19, 2019. Photo: Golfweek

Trailing Menne by one shot entering the final round, Bryan birdied two of the first three holes to take the lead before Menne pulled out of the tournament on the sixth hole. Menne, who was involved in an automobile accident in February had tweaked her neck before Sunday’s round and attempted to fight through the pain, but to no avail. She was looking to become the first player in Golfweek Junior Tournament Series history to win three straight years.

Bryan then faced 11-year-old Gianna Clemente of Warren, Ohio, who seemed unfazed by the moment and gave Bryan everything she could handle in the final twosome.

“I felt really bad for Ashley because we’re good friends,” Bryan said. “But the whole day was a good experience – it was fun to play and Gianna was really nice and fun to play with.”

Bryan started the final round with birdies at 1 and 3 to take the lead before Menne was sidelined. After a bogey at the sixth, Bryan felt herself deadlocked with Clemente. From that point, it was a roller coaster of scores that eventually ended up in an even-par round.

“I had a lot of birdies but it was ‘get a birdie, make a bogey, get a birdie, make a bogey’ the whole time and I just tried to keep my head in it and focus.

“It was definitely back and forth – (Clemente) is a good player, but I just tried to focus on myself and not worry about what else was going on.”

Bryan took the lead for good when Clemente took bogeys at 7 and 9 then notched birdies at 10, 13 and 15 with bogeys directly behind each.

She finished at 70-72—142 while Clemente came in at 70-74—144 to share second place with Madeleine Laux.

Laux, just one shot behind Bryan and Clemente to start the final round, played the first 14 holes Sunday in 1-under-par and briefly shared the lead. She closed with bogeys at 15 and 17 to finish at 71-73—144.

Makenna Cabardo shot 74-72—146 to finish fourth while Angelica Kusnowo shot 75-75—150 to claim sole possession of fifth place.

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