Ben James (Milford, Conn.) and Katie Cranston (Oakville, Ont., Canada), both rising young stars, claimed victory at the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship at TPC Myrtle Beach, but they took different paths to achieve the same goal.
America’s top-ranked junior boy, James was a tournament record 10-under par after shooting a pair of 67s and appeared to be cruising to victory. He was three strokes clear of the field and his sterling play in the first two rounds was highlighted by an opening day albatross on TPC’s 555-yard second hole.
A final round that appeared as if it would be a coronation turned into a test of James’ tenacity. After making just one bogey in the first 36 holes, he bogeyed four of the first six holes on a beautiful but breezy day, and his lead was gone.
The University of Virginia signee had to birdie the par 5 18th hole to shoot 76 and force a playoff with Jack Roberts (St. Mary’s, Ga.), who fired a 1-under 71 to come from five strokes off the pace and finish at 6-under.
After surviving the final round, James was superb in the sudden playoff, reaching the 18th green in two and making a two-putt birdie to secure victory. While the playoff result was disappointing for Roberts, the high school freshman will have other opportunities to win the coveted title.
Cranston began the final round trailing Bailey Shoemaker by three strokes, but she wasted little time making up ground. She birdied the par 4 first hole and quickly drew even with Shoemaker, a junior who has verbally committed to play for the University of Southern California.
After trading the lead, the two were tied on the 13th tee when Cranston aced the 180-yard par 3, seizing control of the tournament. The hole-in-one was the first for Cranston and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The University of Auburn signee consolidated the ace with a birdie on the par 5 14th, providing her a comfortable margin heading down the stretch. On a day when the average score in the girls field was 77, Cranston carded a 68, equaling the record for the lowest round in DJ World Junior history.
She finished the tournament at 5-under, par, four ahead of Shoemaker, America’s No. 3 -ranked girl.