Players of the Year: Conners Claims Honor With Final Event Win
John Conners is a big guy with a huge talent.
He stood off strong challenges from a pair of hard-charging youngsters not only to win the season-ending event of the Winternational Junior Series at Pinehurst Resort, but also claim Player of the Year honors.
Conners, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound high school junior from Apex, used rounds of 72-74 -- 146 to win the junior/senior division by a stroke over runner-up Michael McGowan of Southern Pines.
Brandon Jobe, a junior from Fayetteville's Jack Britt High School, claimed third place with 80-70 -- 150.
The seventh and final event in the 14th year of the Series was contested on Pinehurst Resort's No. 3 and No. 2 Courses.
The performances by Conners and McGowan earned them All-America berths for the season along with Dylan Harris, a freshman, of Southern Pines; Sam Packard, of Pinehurst; James Bramlett, of Charlotte; Beau Cutts of Henderson; Hunter Howell, of Raeford; Jonathan McCurry, of Sanford; Zack Monroe, of Charlotte; Troy Spencer, of Archdale; Brianna Clemmons, of Oak Ridge; and Brooke Kochevar, of Glen Ellyn, Ill., an eighth-grader.
Player of the Year points are earned by top-three finishes during the season, and Conners vaulted from fourth place to first with his win on Sunday. He finished five points ahead of Spencer.
Cutts, who played in all seven tournaments, earned Player of the Year honors in the freshman/sophomore division. Cutts won three of the final four events, including a two-stoke victory in the finale.
Clemmons and Kochevar were co-Players of the Year in the girls' division as each won two events and had a runner-up finish.
Kochevar's run for the title was highlighted by Sunday's final-round 82 when she made up an eight-stroke deficit against Clemmons with an 82.
Charles Valluzzo, of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., was awarded the Bud Shulby Memorial Sportsmanship Award. Shulby, a Pinehurst resident who served for 10 years as a rules official for the Winternational Junior Series, died four years ago. His wife, Ellen, has served for 14 years in that position.
Valluzzo's attitude and demeanor during competition this season demonstrated the qualities of morals and ethics exemplified by this award.
Conners, who opened with a 72 on the No. 3 Course and held a one-shot lead over McCurry, had to withstand strong runs by McGowan and Jobe to earn his title in the junior/senior division.
McGowan, the son of PGA Champions Tour player Pat McGowan and a repeat All-American, played his final 12 holes on the No. 2 Course in two under par.
Jobe, who had seemed to shoot himself out of contention with an opening round of 80 on the No. 3 Course, rebounded with the event's low round, a 2-under-par 70 on No. 2, to finish third. His charge was fueled by four birdies.
Hunter Howell, of Raeford, a former All-American, tied for fifth with 153.
Cutts, a high school sophomore, shot 74-79 -- 153 to claim his third victory. Trevor Cone of Concord used an even-par back nine for a 75 on Sunday that moved him into second place with 155, two strokes behind Cutts.
Eddie McCrossen, of Ambler, Pa., was third with 157.
Packard opened with a 74 on the No. 3 Course that gave him a share of the lead going into Sunday's final round, but slipped to an 85 on the No. 2 Course to finish tied for fifth at 159.
Harris shot 83-80 to finish 15th.
Kochevar seemed out of contention for the girls' title when she opened with a 92 on the No. 3 Course on Saturday, while Clemmons shot 84.
But the roles were reversed on Sunday when Clemmons struggled on No. 2 with a 93, while Kochevar shot 82.
Kochevar made up the eight strokes over the first 11 holes on Sunday and won going away.
"We had a great year," said Peter deYoung, the series chairman and founder. "A renewed pledge to junior golf by the people at Pinehurst, the help of Jason Cox and the Carolinas Golf Association and Ehren Link and Justin Meyers of the Resort's tournament staff all were instrumental in the success.
"Having great weather for most of the events helped, also."
The Winternational Junior Series is scheduled to return to Pinehurst for its 15th season in November.
For membership information, future scheduling and results from the past season, visit the Web site at www.juniorgolfpinehurst.com, or contact deYoung at 295-5661.
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