Ropietski, Powell take titles, set records
A pair of high school sophomores set scoring records in the 22nd AGA/GAP Junior Tournament of Champions.
In the Boys’ Division, Cael Ropietski opened with a personal-best 5-under-par-66 at Fox Hill Country Club (par 71, 6,149 yards) Monday. A 2-over-par 74 at Huntsville Golf Club, his home course (par 72, 6,298 yards) Tuesday, secured a six-shot victory over fellow Huntsville member Michael Lugiano.
Ropietski’s 140 total broke the event’s scoring record by a stroke. Nicholas Reach (2007), Brandon Matthews (2010) and Chase Makowski (2012) shared the previous benchmark (141).
In the Girls’ Division, Gwendolyn Powell set a scoring record as well. The Elmhurst Country Club member carded rounds of 75 and 78 for an 8-over-par 153 total. She clipped Katie Scarpetta’s previous mark by a stroke.
The AGA/GAP Junior Tournament of Champions concludes the Lawler Junior Tour Series sponsored by Abington Center for Cosmetic & Family Dentistry and Community Bank. It is a two day, 36-hole event. Winners of a Lawler Junior Tour Series event, in addition to those who ranked high in scoring average/finish, make up the field.
“I was hitting it really far off the tee, especially yesterday. Most of the time, I was really close to the green for my second shot,” Ropietski, 15, of Harveys Lake, Pa., said. “My putting was a little bit off, especially on the longer putts. But I made a ton of putts inside 10 feet.”
Ropietski began his bid with a three-putt bogey on No. 1 (par 4, 393 yards) at Fox Hill. Instead of worrying about the misstep, he kept his head down and focused on the next shot. A short memory paid big dividends.
Back-to-back birdies on Nos. 6 (par 5, 467 yards) and 7 (par 3, 160 yards) gave Ropietski a two-stroke advantage over Lugiano, his groupmate on both days. Ropietski converted a 39-footer on No. 6 before watching his 9-iron on No. 7 land five feet from the hole location and retreat. He buried an uphill 20-footer for birdie there. A trio of back-nine birdies — the highlight being a two-putt from 20 feet on the par 5, 463-yard 12th hole after a lowcut 9-iron from 144 yards — followed.
Ropietski beat his previous best (a 3-under-par 69 at Huntsville).
“I wasn’t worrying about the 66. I was trying to do my best today,” Ropietski said. “My driver was the best part of my game. I wasn’t hitting balls in the woods. I was keeping it in play.”
Ball-striking, as Ropietski emphasized, is key to scoring well at Huntsville. Hit it long and straight, and you’ll be fine. Ropietski followed said mantra Tuesday. He led from wire-to-wire en route to breaking the event’s scoring record.
“I didn’t realize [I broke the record], which made it more special,” Ropietski said. “Hopefully I’ll break it next year.”
Powell, too, led from wire-to-wire en route to Junior TOC history. She is the third individual to capture three titles (2018, 2020) Ellen Ceresko (2007-09) and Danielle Dalessandro (2010, 2012-13) also accomplished such a feat.
“I feel great. I knew that I could do it,” Powell, 15, of Madison Township, Pa., said. “All around I had a great round. I was a little bit up and down a few times early, but toward the end, I felt good really good coming into the back nine. I’m very proud.”
Powell, a rising sophomore at North Pocono High School, cited ball-striking and chipping as her game’s greatest strengths. Both proved pivotal at equally-demanding venues.
“Both courses were in great condition. Fox Hill is the type of course I’m used to playing on. Huntsville is just a beautiful course,” Powell said. “I really was just thinking about shooting my own score. I wanted to stay in the 70s and shoot a good round.”
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 300 Member Clubs and 80,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.