Darien's Alex Gu, Emily Cohen win junior PGA championships
NEW HAVEN — The Connecticut Junior PGA Championship certainly followed a Darien theme.
Alexander Gu, a rising Darien High School senior, continued his success streak no matter what the event, or venue is, while Darien native Emily Cohen won the girls’ tournament title.
Gu, who won the State Open individual tournament at Black Hall Club recently, was part of a winning duo at the Chappa Invitational and placed second at the CIAC Division I Tournament, captured the CTPGA Section Connecticut Junior PGA boys title with his latest eye-opening round.
Following up a round of 1-under-par 69 on Tuesday with a 2-over 71 on Wednesday, Gu claimed the championship with a 1-over-par 140 at Yale Golf Course.
By winning the tournament and placing among the top four finishers, Gu qualified to compete in the Boys Junior PGA Championship, to be held at Keney Park Golf Course in West Hartford July 30-Aug 2.The Girls Junior PGA Championship will also be held at Keney Park Golf Course and is scheduled to take place July 9-12. Each event features 144 players, who will test their skills in a four-round, 18-hole stroke play event.
This summer marks the first time Connecticut is hosting the Boys and Girls Junior PGA Championships. It will also be Gu’s first appearance in the national tournament, after coming close in the past.
“It’s absolutely amazing, this is my third year in this tournament and I’ve been close twice,” Gu said. “I’ve had a fourth-place and a third- place the final two years, so to be able to be the champion is amazing.”
Alex Aurora of Hamden and Tyler Woodward of Durham each tied for second at 3-over-par 143 over two rounds. Jeremy Yun of Old Saybrook earned the fourth spot into the Boys Junior PGA Championship by winning his playoff hole, after carding a 3-over-par 144, along with Jonathan Elkins from South Deerfield, Mass.
Will Lodge of Darien, Luke Willenborg (Southwick, Mass.) and Mitchell Schwab (Westport) each finished in a sixth-place tied with a 5-over 145.
Gu’s Wednesday round was highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 16th hole.
“I knew I had to make sure to fire at the pins and I finally got a good opportunity on 16,” Gu said. “I drained an eagle putt, which was a statement putt. It gave me a good cushion for the remaining holes.”
Playing it safe on Yale’s course wasn’t in Gu’s plans on Wednesday.
“Staying aggressive was important, but I to make sure to keep it in the fairway and keep firing at flags,” Gu said. “People were getting birdies, my friend had a hole-in-one. It was a fun day to play golf out there.”
Holding the heavy championship trophy following the tourney made it all the more enjoyable for Gu, who was joined by numerous Darien teammates at the tourney.
“A lot of my good friends were here — bunch of Darien kids,” he said. “Having friends here just makes it so much fun and it relaxes you a lot on the course.”
Aurora of Hamden was pleased with his second-place finish, which advanced him to the Junior PGA Championship.
“During the high school season, I came in second place at states, second place at the State Open and I was second at the New England tournament, so I continued that trend, which I’m happy about,” Aurora said. “My putting has been really good the last two days and I was able to get up-and-down on some key holes. After a shaky start yesterday (Tuesday), I was 3-under from the fifth hole of the first round.”
The shot of the day in the boys’ tournament came from Woodward, who made his first career hole-in-one on the par-3, 13th hole.
“I hit a six and it bounced two yards short and fell right in,” Woodward said. “I was yelling for it to go in. It’s my first ace, so it’s one of those shots that I’ll always remember.”
Mitchell, a former Westport resident, who now resides in Orlando, Fla., turned in two strong rounds at Yale.
“I got off to a little bit of a rough start I think I was four over or five over through 7, but then I kept it together and played pretty well in the back,” said Schwab. “I got to play against some good competition in this tournament and was a lot of fun.”
Said Lodge: “The course played much different yesterday (Tuesday) with a lot of rain and wind. Today, it was easier to control the ball. The course was in fantastic shape — the greens were perfect.”
The Connecticut PGA Girls Championship concluded following the boys tournament, with Cohen edging Irene Wang from Athens, Ga., in a two-hole playoff. She rolled in a birdie putt on the second playoff hole to claim the championship trophy.
“We were both kind of one-upping each other on each shot, but on the second hole I was able to get it to within four feet of the hole and make a putt, which was pretty exciting,” Cohen said. “It means a lot, it’s a really special place and I love the course — it’s like a wildlife sanctuary.”
Cohen, a Darien native, who recently graduated from IMG Academy in Florida, shot a 75 in the first round, before carding a 1-under 69 in the second round (5-over-par 145 for the tournament).
“The first nine today (Wednesday) was a little frustrating, I was not able to drain any birdie putts,” Cohen said. “On the back nine, I came back and started making birdies. I got in the zone and got amped up. I was very proud of how I played today.”
Cohen is competing in the North/South Junior Championship in Pinehurst, then will play in the Connecticut State Women’s Amateur Championship this summer. Despite winning Connecticut Section PGA Junior Championship, she is ineligible to compete in the Junior PGA Championship since she is not affiliated with the Connecticut PGA.
Cohen credited her IMG coach Bryan Van Der Riet for helping her raise her level of play this season.
She just graduated from IMG recently and is heading to Elon University soon, where she will play on the golf team. Julia Kashimura from Watertown (5-over 145), Angela Garvin (Feeding Hills, Mass., 6-over 146), Sophia Sarrazin of Westport (7-over 147) and Alexandra Lapple (Ridgefield, 8-over 148) each advanced to the Junior PGA Championship in Hartford.
Sarrazin shot a sizzling 68 with three birdies and 14 pars Wednesday’s final round.
“I was putting a lot better today and I hit almost every green in regulation, which was great,” Sarrazin said. “That really helped me, along with my putting, which was consistent.”
Mia Scarpati from Norwalk was ninth (76-79-155), followed by New Canaan’s Meghan Mitchell (10th, 78-79-157).
“The third hole today I hit it left, but got up-and-down, which was helped my round,” Mitchell said. “My putting wasn’t the best, but it was still good. There’s still room for improvement and I’m working on it.”