Sarah Bae has been on a steady climb in the state’s junior golf ranks for the last couple of years.
After helping Athens Drive High School to the state 4-A team championship last fall as a freshman, Bae has continued her strong play, garnering four victories this year. She won the Peggy Kirk Bell event at Finley Golf Club and the Jimmy Anderson Girls Invitational in March, then added a runner-up finish in the Vicki DiSantis Girls Championship in May. A first-place finish in the Peggy Kirk Bell Tour’s Salisbury Open closed out May and vaulted her to No. 6 on the Carolinas Golf Association’s girls state rankings.
And that rank is sure to rise when the July list is released after she claimed another notable junior championship – the 32nd annual Junior North and South at Pinehurst Resort on June 17.
Bae opened with a 72 at Pinehurst No. 2 to take the first-round lead, but found herself five shots behind West Virginian Brooke Bellomy after shooting 79 in round two at Course No. 8.
But when Bellomy struggled to an 80 in the final round at Course No. 5, Bae posted a 73 and ended in a tie at the top of the leaderboard with Katie Kirk of Davidson. Bae then notched a par on the first playoff hole to claim the victory.
Bae’s victory in the PKB event at the Country Club of Salisbury was equally impressive as she shot 71-70 and edged high school teammate and UNC recruit Katherine Perry by three shots. Perry’s 74-70 was two better than third-place finisher Kristi Ingram of Winston-Salem.
Boys North and South
PINEHURST • June 15-17 — Alex Ehlert of Raleigh posted a top-10 finish in the North and South Junior, closing with a 73 at Pinehurst No. 2 after shooting 76-69 at courses No. 8 and 5 the first two days. He ended fifth, five shots off the pace of Jake Nutter of Bedford, N.H. Nutter shot 73-70-70 to claim a one-shot win.
GREENSBORO • June 15-18 – Tanner Kesterson of Plano, Texas, now has a return trip to Greensboro on his summer schedule.
Kesterson made the most of his first visit by winning the FootJoy Invitational, a major on the American Junior Golf Association tour, at Sedgefield Country Club.
The win earned the rising high school senior an invitation to the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship on Aug. 19-22.
Kesterson, who has verbally committed to Oklahoma State, shot 69-64-70-68 to edge Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky., and Anthony Paolucci of Del Mar, Calif., by one shot.
Thomas, who won last year’s tournament and then made the cut in the Wyndham, bogeyed the final hole after missing the green while Kesterson two-putted for par.
The 98-player field included 25 players who have signed National Letters of Intent as well as 23 Rolex Junior All-Americans.
Andrew Knox of Cary had the best finish by a Triangle player, posting 69-68-74-70 to tie for 12th. Knox will play at UNC Greensboro this fall.
Grayson Murray of Raleigh tied for 35th with 67-74-71-77.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. • May 28-31 — Grayson Murray fired a final-round 64 to vault into the top 10 of the Thunderbird International, an American Junior Golf Association event.
Murray was tied for 28th after a 75-72 start but he made nine birdies at Grayhawk Golf Club in the final round and ended seven shots off the pace.
Andy Knox tied for 29th with 77-72-72.
Tarheel Golf Foundation
PINEHURST • May 29-30 – An injured wrist didn’t keep Kendrick Vinar of Chapel Hill from claiming a one-shot win in the Freshman/Sophomore Division of the Junior Memorial Tournament at National Golf Club.
He shot 76 in the opening round but came back with a steady 72 that included three birdies and three bogeys.
In the Junior/Senior Division, Grant Houser of Holly Springs (74-73) and Will Wheless of Raleigh (72-75) tied for second, two shots off the pace.
Tanner Owen of High Point fired 7-under-par 65 in the second round and held off Benjamin Griffin of Chapel Hill win the Middle School Division Owen and Griffin each opened with 71 and battled for the lead throughout the second round with the lead changing hands a couple of times before Owen birdied Nos. 13, 15 and 18 to end with a two-shot margin.
Griffin, who won the middle school scoring award for the season with 70.0, scored birdies at Nos. 4, 5, 8, 9, 10 and 12 during his second-round 67.
The shot of the day was scored by Tyler Matthews of Clayton who found his cup for a double eagle on the par-5 10th. It was the second double eagle of the season on the TGF tour. Cyrus Stewart had one at Finley Golf Course last September.
WAKE FOREST • June 16 — Raleigh’s Ryan Nagy rolled in seven birdies on his way to a 5-under-par 67 and captured first place in the event at Heritage Golf Club which was part of TGF’s Summer One-Day Series.
Nagy, who will be a member of the team at UNC Wilmington this fall, ended three shots ahead of Jake Britt of Wake Forest in the High School Division. Britt notched four birdies on his home course.
In the middle school division, Ryan Gerard of Raleigh posted three birdies and fired a 74 to claim a nine-shot victory.
Eleven-year-old Emilia Migliaccio of Cary shot an 86 and earned a two-shot win in the girls division. Her score came despite playing in a heavy downpour on the last hole and a resulting triple bogey.
Trusted Choice Big I
The Trusted Choice Boys Big I State Championship is set for July 10-11 in Southern Pines with Mid Pines playing host to some of the state’s best players.
Boys who finished in the top 10 a year ago, those ranked among the top 20 in the Carolinas Golf Association and the current year’s high school state champions were exempt from qualifying.
Meanwhile, regional rounds were held at eight different sites in June to complete the field.
A list of the regional qualifiers can be found in the junior golf scoreboard.
There are two age divisions for boys: 14-under and 15-18.
The girls event will be played on July 10-11 at Pine Needles. There was no regional qualifying for the two age groups (14-under and 15-18).
Atlantic Coast Junior Tour
SOUTHERN PINES • June 5-6 – Michael McMahon of Raleigh won the Atlantic Coast Junior Tour Championship in the boys 12-under division at Hyland Golf Club, carding a pair of 82s.