Sugg All-American, Player of the Year
James Sugg tied for second in the season-ending Winternational Junior Series event on Pinehurst Resort’s Centennial No. 8 Course Sunday and it was more than enough to secure Divisional Player of the Year and All-America honors for the 14-year-old Pinecrest High School freshman.
Sugg, who won the third event of the season on the Pinehurst No. 3 Course, also had a second-place finish and a tie for second in compiling 332.5 points in the season-long points race in the freshman/sophomore division, finishing 20 points ahead of Aaron Walker of Charlotte.
Blake Fiest of Huntersville, won the season finale, shooting 75-80—155. Sugg tied with Walker, shooting 85-80—165.
“My goal was to win the points race,” Sugg said. “This was a rough tournament for me, though, and I really didn’t do anything well. I was struggling off the tee and I wasn’t chipping well, either.”
Sugg considers his second-place finish in the annual Donald Ross Junior Championship held annually in Pinehurst his top achievement of the season.
“I’m pretty happy with how I played over the season, but I’m hoping to improve,” he said.
Benjamin Chrystler of Whispering Pines tied for fourth with 169 and finished third in the points race with 262.5, earning All-America status. Griffin Cryan of Pinehurst was 17th with 154.5 and Anderson Allgeyer of Pinehurst was 35th.
Tanner Owen of High Point, who had three wins and a second in four events played, shot 76-73—149 to come from a stroke behind and win the junior/senior division by three strokes over Davis Morrison of Charlotte.
Owen, a junior at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School, won the points race in his division with 380. Gray Townsend of Winston-Salem was runner-up with 287.5. Zachary Martin of Pinehurst, who had two second-place finishes in two attempts, was 10th with 160 points. Austin Scarboro of Pinehurst was 36th.
“I’ve played here for three years and I feel comfortable,” Owen said. “This is the first time I’ve been player of the year and it’s a big honor.
“I love coming here and the Pinehurst courses are absolutely phenomenal. Number 8 is one of the best conditioned here and the greens are perfect. It’s impressive to come here and play well. This is a great tour and I’ll probably be back to play it again next year.”
The 17-year-old Owen, who has committed to play golf for Wake Forest University, hit all 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in Sunday’s round of 73.
“I played much better than my score,’ he said. “I was driving it great, but I won’t go into my putting. That’s my Achilles heel.”
Jessica Kittelberger of Cary, playing in her first event of the season, won the girls’ division final outing with 82-78—160. She posted a 37 on the front nine of Sunday’s round.
Kendall Dobbins, a 15-year-old freshman at Northern Guilford High in Summerfield, claimed girls’ player of the year honors with a strong overall showing that produced second places in all four of the events in which she competed. She finished with 91-93—184.
Dobbins totaled 320 points, 45 better than runner-up Lacy Mirovich of Mount Pleasant, S.C., and earned All-America honors.
“I’ve only been playing for a year and half, “Dobbins said, “but I was pretty much hooked the first time. I’ve loved playing here. It’s a lot of fun and I’ll be back. I like the people here and these Pinehurst courses are amazing.”
Ten boys and Dobbins were named All-America. They were: Sugg, Chrystler, Owen, Jordan Clontz of Nebo, Mitchell Ellis of Greensboro, Nick Dorton of Anderson, S.C., Austin Harrell of Hickory, Alex Simpson of Matthews, Townsend, Walker and Dobbins.
The Winternational Junior Series, which consists of eight weekend events, all on Pinehurst Resort courses, is operated by Peter de Young, who founded the tour 19 years ago.
“When I talked to Pat Corso (former Pinehurst president) about forming it in 1994, there were two winter junior tours in existence,” de Young, a Pinehurst resident, said. “Now there are 45.”
The Winternationals are unique in that all eight events are staged at the same facility instead of moving around to different sites.
“Most of our players are from the state, but we still get some from as far away as New York,” de Young said. “Over the past 19 years, we’ve hosted more than 2,200 kids.”
Some of those kids have gone on to make names for themselves in the game. Jason Dufner was a two-time PGA Tour winner and Ryder Cup player last year. Johnston Wagner (he of the moustache) also played here as did Tour players Webb Simpson and Jason Kokrak.
“We’ve had a lot of college players,” de Young said. “It’s fun to watch them come through here.”
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