WINDSOR — Jake Beber-Frankel held the lead in the final round of the Boys Junior PGA Championship before Canon Claycomb took over the top spot on the back nine. Andy Mao found himself atop the leaderboard, then it was time for Jack Heath to make his move.
And once Heath made a charge Friday on the back nine Keney Park Golf Course, there was no stopping him.
Shooting a sizzling 8-under-par 62, including a 5-under 30 on the back nine, Heath stormed back from five shots down at the beginning of the final round to win the 44th Boys Junior PGA Championship.
A Charlotte, North Carolina resident, Heath shot an eye-opening 21-under-par 259 to capture the four-round junior boys PGA title. Heath, who began the last round in a fifth-place tie at 13-under, posted rounds of 65, 64, 68 and 62 en route to winning the tournament, which was held for the first time at Keney Park.
Claycomb of Bowling Green, Kentucky, was the runnerup, registering a 16-under-par 260 — just one stroke off the pace. Mao (Johns Creek, Ga.,) placed third (15-under 261), while Brett Roberts (Coral Springs, Fla.) was fourth with a 12-under 262. Beber-Frankel (Miami, Fla.), who entered the final round with a two-shot lead on Claycomb at 18-under-par, placed fifth at 17-under 263.
The field included four Connecticut players, including Milford resident Ben James, who had an impressive showing, finishing in a tie for ninth in the tournament, which featured the premier junior golfers in the nation.
Photo: David Fierro /Hearst Connecticut Media
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Heath recorded two eagles and six birdies on Friday. He holed four birdie putts on the back nine.
“The whole back nine everything was going in,” the 17-year-old Heath said. “I just saw the hole and made the putt. I just putted it and it went in.”
Some players don’t like to know where they stand late in a tournament — especially when it’s close. Not so for Heath.
“I was very aware of what was going on,” said Heath, who noticed the leaderboard change on numerous occasions during the final round. “My putting was a lot better than the other rounds. Once I made one putt, I started believing I could make them.”
After shooting a 3-under 32 on the front nine, Heath, who teed off two groups before the leaders on Friday morning, got into a birdie roll on the back nine.
He drained a six-foot putt for birdie on the 12th hole, rolled in a 20-footer for an eagle on No. 14, birdied No. 15, then sank a 12-foot downhill putt for birdie on 17. Heath concluded his round and captured the Jack Nicklaus championship trophy with a birdie on the 18th hole.
“I went into the last round with the mindset of being aggressive,” said Heath, who has made a verbal commitment to play golf at San Diego State. “If you make pars here, you are losing shots. I had two bogeys here and I shot a 62 (his personal-low round).
Claycomb, who has committed to play on the golf team at the University of Alabama, birdied seven holes Friday, including the first three. He shot a 33 on both the front and back nine.
“I got off to a good start and kind of stumbled toward the middle,” Claycomb said. “I had a few tough tee shots that final stretch of the front nine, but I came back very well and fought the whole time. We had a few scoreboards out there and I was trying to look at it and I saw I was in the lead at one point. It was fun trying to chase down Jack (Heath). I’ve known him for a while and I’m happy and proud to be friends with him.”
Beber-Frankel, was at 18-under, following rounds of 67, 60 and 65 the first three rounds. He finished with a 1-over 71 on Friday.
“I’m happy I put myself in a position to contend,” said Frankel, the son of Academy Award-winning director David Frankel. “I’m disappointed in my putting on the last day of the tournament. It wasn’t because I felt like I was under pressure. I just don’t know what happened with my putting today.”
The Florida native will take his golf skills to Stanford in 2020.
“This tournament shows that I can definitely do it,” Beber-Frankel said. “I played really well, it just came down to making a few more putts.”
James, a rising Hamden Hall Country Day sophomore, shot a 4-under 66 Friday on his way to carding a 14-under 266. His final round began with three straight birdies.
“I just missed the goal in my mind by one, or two strokes,” said James, who finished third at the Connecticut Open Championship last month. “I just have to keep working hard and keep doing what I’m doing, because I’m playing well. I enjoyed this tournament a lot, the course is great. It has some getable holes, but I also think the greens were tough in some spots.”
Will Lodge of Darien and Middlefield’s Chris Fosdick each shot a 6-under 274, good for 28th in the tourney (70-66-69-69)
“I birdied the first hole, then I evened out, but on 10 I got a birdie to get to 2 under for the day,” Lodge said. “This was a good round for me and I’m happy with it. Overall, the summer has been great. I’ve been putting up some good scores and I’m getting my game where I want it to be.”
Fosdick holed two birdie putts at Keney Park on Friday.
“This was my second time playing in this tournament and I’ve gotten to know a lot of the kids in the field,” Fosdick said. “Today, I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, but putting is big and I missed a few. But I think that’s one thing this tournament helped me improve on.”
Hamden resident and Hamden Hall student Alex Aurora finished at 1-over 281 over the four-round event.
“I had a couple of goals,” Aurora said. “The first one was to qualify for this tournament, which I did at Yale’s course. My other goal was to make the cut at this tournament, so I was happy to do that. Overall, this was a huge learning experience for me.”