Connelly, Skinner win Junior All-Star at Hilton Head
Playoffs lead to first-time AJGA champions
BLUFFTON, S.C. — The Junior All-Star at Hilton Head marked first-time AJGA wins for both Austin Connelly of Las Colinas, Texas, and Isabella Skinner of Cumming, Ga. Both champions won playoffs for first place. For the Boys Division, the playoff featured Connelly and Matthew Plunkett, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., who carded 4-under-par 212 to tie for first. Skinner and Laura Sojo of Barranquilla, Colombia, both carded 4-over-par 220 to result in the Girls Division playoff and Skinner's victory.
The Junior All-Star at Hilton Head is one of 10 events in the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy Junior All-Star Series. Specifically designed for boys and girls ages 12-15, the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy Junior All-Star Series presents opportunities for younger members to develop their skills and earn entry into AJGA Open tournaments. The Series concludes with the Montverde Academy Junior All-Star Invitational over Columbus Day weekend for winners and top finishers in Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy Junior All-Star Series events.
Connelly went into the final round at Berkeley Hall Club with a consistent mindset that matched his previous rounds.
“I just wanted to grind out pars and let the birdies come,” Connelly said. “That's the same mentality I had the whole tournament. I just wanted to play as well as I could. I wasn't really thinking about score, I just wanted to hit each shot.”
Even though Connelly had two birdies on Nos. 14 and 17, the hole with the most impact was his playoff on No. 18 to claim his first AJGA victory.
“I hit my drive pretty solid down the middle,” Connelly said. “I hit my 5-iron right at it, decided to take dead aim, hit it a touch thin but pretty solid, and apparently it almost went in. It lipped out and I heard the whole crown go ‘ugh.' Then I had about a 15-foot pretty big slider and I got the read from Matthew, he was a couple feet behind me. I had that little spike mark next to the hole, hit it at it, and hit it pretty solid and it ended up going in.”
Plunkett placed second with 4-under-par 212 after the playoff with Connelly. David Mackey of Bogart, Ga., and Austen Truslow of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., carded 2-under par 214 to tie for third. Pablo Andres Torres of Bogota, Colombia, placed fifth with 1-under-par 215.
Skinner fought hard through the final round to win the Girls Division. Having led the previous two rounds, she went into the final round focused on staying calm and continuing her momentum.
“I was really calm actually and I started off really well, but I started missing a couple putts and it got in my head,” Skinner said. “I just let it affect me and it's what caused a couple bad holes out there. Unfortunately, I only had one birdie, so it didn't help get rid of those mistakes. Besides that, I was calm, but during the middle of the round it got kind of crazy. It was tough to stay strong and not think about it so much.”
After saving bogey on No. 18 to tie for first, Skinner had to get prepared for the playoff on No. 1.
“I tried to let my swing be my swing and not to be too tense,” Skinner said. “I told myself I could do it and I ended up being able to put myself on the green after pulling my drive off the tee. I ended up two-putting from 60 feet, so that was good. I just let myself do what I needed to do.”
In the Girls Division, Sojo finished second with 4-over-par 220 after her playoff with Skinner. Kelly Whaley of Farmington, Conn., and Lauren Stephenson of Lexington, S.C., tied for third carding 8-over-par 224.
GARY GILCHRIST GOLF ACADEMY, a full-time signature golf instruction program located in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., began as an Official Partner of the AJGA in 2009. The partnership features an endowment of an Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant and naming rights to the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy Junior All-Star Series for juniors ages 12-15.
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships, and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 49 states and more than 40 countries. To ensure scholarship opportunities for all junior golfers who have the skill, the AJGA created the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant program to provide financial assistance to young players in need.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex, which is in its third decade of AJGA support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Polo Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 500 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park and Morgan Pressel.
For more information on the Junior All-Star at Hilton Head, please contact AJGA National headquarters at (770) 868-4200 or visit ajga.org.