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AGA/GAP Junior Tournament of Champions

Cryan, McClellan take titles in Junior TOC

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Martin Cryan kept his head down, swung with all his might and saw a cascade of sand take his hand to the promised land.

The Fox Hill Country Club youngster executed a bunker blast that resulted in a 12-footer for birdie and a victory in the Boys’ Division of the AGA/GAP Lawler Junior Tour Tournament of Champions July 30 at Huntsville Golf Club (par 72, 6,477 yards). Cryan defeated Country Club of Scranton’s James Flickinger, Jr. in a sudden-death playoff.

Both players finished regulation tied at 12-over-par 155. Cryan carded rounds of 75 and 80; Flickinger 73 and 82. Round One of the 18-hole event took place at Fox Hill (par 71, 5,587 yards) Monday.

In the aforementioned playoff, Cryan powered his drive through the fairway and into the bunker on No. 1 (par 5, 482 yards), the first playoff hole. He attempted to reach the green in two strokes with a 5-iron from 210 yards.

“It was going straight at the pin, which they moved from the morning. It was actually back right in the morning, and when got into the playoff, it was front right,” Cryan, 17, of Forty Fort, Pa., said. “I didn’t know that and I thought I could cover the bunker. It just landed on the top and rolled down into the bunker. Someone’s footstep was at the edge of the bunker, so when my ball came back down in, it stopped in it. My ball was kind of embedded.”

“I knew I had to make the putt just to have a chance to stay in it.”

Martin Cryan

With Flickinger facing a six-footer for birdie, Cryan hoped for miracle shot. Prayer answered. His golf ball ingested the proper sand dosage and stopped 12 feet from the jar.

“I knew I had to make the putt just to have a chance to stay in it. It felt great [to nake it and win],” Cryan said. Flickinger missed his birdie to match.

Cryan’s playoff putt contrasted those prior at both Fox Hill and Huntsville. Cryan struggled on the greens — see a four putt for double bogey on No. 2 (par 4, 385 yards) for evidence — but managed to find an effective stroke down the stretch. Home-course knowledge, too, allowed the incoming Holy Redeemer High School senior to fend off putting woes.

“Knowing where I could miss at Fox Hill helped,” Cryan said. “I hit a couple of tee shots that, even though I was in a bad place, they were places I’d been in before where you could get out easy and still hit the green. I was on most of the par 5s in two. It was just tough to get the putter going there.

“I knew I just had to stay in it because the two-day total is what was going to matter. I knew that if I was in the mid-to-low 70s after the first day, then I’d have a great chance at Huntsville.”

A 1-over-par 73 in a practice round at Huntsville also reassured Cryan’s thinking. However, challenging conditions complicated a balky putter. Cryan nearly slipped back of Flickinger on the par 4, 366-yard 16th hole at Huntsville. But an up-and-in for bogey after a poor bunker shot from 170 yards allow the former to match the latter’s three-putt for 5.

Tuesday’s victory may be difficult to match in Cryan’s golf memory bank.

“It’s at the top right now. Hopefully I can get some better victories as I go along,” he said.

Girls’ Division
Gone are Jessica McClellan’s days of strictly practicing and playing golf. Now she incorporates both tasks into a busy work schedule at Split Rock Golf Club and a college preparation itinerary.

“It’s been a different summer than other years when I just played golf and practiced all of the time. There are more things on my plate,” McClellan, 18, of Freeland, Pa., said.

She cleared space on her daily dish for the AGA/GAP Lawler Junior Tour Tournament of Champions July 29-30 at Fox Hill (par 72, 5,319 yards) and Huntsville (par 72, 5,396 yards). McClellan now needs to make room for a trophy. She carded rounds of 83 and 88 to edge defending champion Gwendolyn Powell of Madison Township, Pa. by a stroke.

“It means a lot because I’ve been playing on the Lawler Junior Tour since I was 13. I won in 2017 as well, so I kind of wanted to come back in the last year I was able to play in it and win again,” McClellan, a Wyoming Valley Country Club member, said.

McClellan, who held a three-stroke lead in the Girls’ Division entering the final round, opened with a setback at Huntsville. She sailed over No. 1 (par 5, 401 yards) green with a 52-degree wedge.

“I was on a huge bank right behind the green and short-sided. I was in some tall grass. The chip shot was very difficult. That led to a 7,” McClellan said. “I bounced back after the first hole, though.”

Four consecutive pars suggest so. McClellan relied on front-nine familiarity to settle in. She played Huntsville at least twice a year for high school matches during her time at MMI Preparatory School. A comfortable pairing also eased early nerves. McClellan, who will study professional golf management at Penn State University in the fall, played alongside friends Grace Babinchak of Hazleton, Pa. and Marin Dremock of Drums, Pa.

“We’ve been on the tour for a while now. We’ve played high school golf against each other, too. We know each other pretty well. We had fun,” McClellan said.

Launched in 1999, the AGA/GAP Lawler Junior Tour Series Tournament of Champions is a two-day, 36-hole stroke play event. Winners of a Lawler Junior Tour Series event, in addition to those who ranked high in scoring average/finish, make up the field.  

GAP
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 274 Full Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.