Junior tour swings into 30th season

How’s this for a graduation presence?

Will Burleigh, who ended last season as the overall points champion in the Niagara District Junior Golf Tour’s boys under-15 division, began this year’s tour with a victory.

Despite moving up to the under-19 division, where he will be competing against golfers with much more experience, the 15-year-old from Grimsby more than held his own when the tour opened its 30th season Thursday at Brock Golf Course.

He finished regulation at the par-57 executive course in Fonthill tied with Aidan Lopinski of Lookout Point with a 60. They each double-bogeyed the first playoff hole, on No. 10, before Burleigh beat Lopinski by one stroke on the 11th hole for the win.

“The first playoff hole (on No. 10) didn’t go very well for both of us. We both made bogey, we both went over the green, hit a bad chip and two-putted, ” recalled Burleigh, who in September will be starting Grade 11 at Grimsby Secondary School.

On the winning hole, Lopinski’s drive landed on the right side of the fairway. Burleigh hit his tee shot a “little further up on the left. ”

“Chipped on to about eight feet and two-putted. Aidan put his to the back of the green and three-putted, ”Burleigh, who plays out of Sawmill Golf Course in Fenwick, said.

A four-time winner on the tour last year, Burleigh won his debut in the top flight for boys despite irons that played like lead.

“My irons were mediocre, my short game really saved me,” he said.

In his three-plus years on the tour, Burleigh has found that keeping his emotions in check is the key to a good round.

“Focusing on what’s in the moment and not the outcome. ”

Burleigh, whose coach at Sawmill is Brody Whetham, said it has become easier to forget about making a bad shot

“I’ve worked on it so much. ”

Golf became his sport after he accompanied his father George to the course.

“I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I was told that I would do pretty well in it from a pro at Rockway Glen, so I thought I would give it a try. ”

He intends to compete in the under-19 championships next week in Sudbury and hopes to compete in as many events as possible on the junior tour.

“I plan on doing the best I can and trying to

place. ”

His father still golfs a “little bit. ”

“But not as much as I do. ”

Sierra Kowalyshyn, 13, carded a 69 for a one-stroke victory over Casey Kenney, a fellow Sawmill member and the tour’s defending girls champion.

“I hit a lot of good shots on the par-3s, and I think my chipping was really good,” she said. “I was able to save par a lot.”

What is the strength of her game?

“Definitely my driver and my putting have to be on point. ”

On Thursday, the Grade 8 student at St. Mark Catholic Elementary School in Stoney Creek was never confident that she would end opening day on the tour atop the leaderboard

“I was fighting until the last hole. ”

Kowalyshyn is “really hard” on herself when she hits a bad shot

“But then I try to make up for it with a good one, ” she said. “Once I make a good shot, I kind of forget about the bad one. ”

Ten events in all are on this year’s tour. The next stop is Friday, July 8, at Rockway Vineyards in St. Catharines.

Leaders on the links

The top five from the four flights at a Niagara District Junior Golf Tour stop Thursday at the par-57 Brock Golf Course on Merrittville Highway in Fonthill. In all, 50 golfers participated.

Under-19 boys 1. x-Will Burleigh, Sawmill, 29-31 = 60; Aidan Lopinski, Lookout Point, 30-30 = 60; 3. John Kingdon, Sawmill, 28-33 = 61; 4. Caleb Shorthouse, Twenty Valley, 31-31 = 62; Cole Thompson, Sawmill, 32-30 = 62 (x-won 2-hole playoff).

Junior girls 1. Sierra Kowalyshyn, Sawmill, 35-34 = 69; 2. Casey Kenney, Sawmill, 37-33 = 70; 3. Grace Stewart, Sawmill, 35-40 = 75; 4. Mikayla Lacey, Port Colborne, 39-38 = 77; 5. Ali Nickason, Sawmill, 37-42 = 79.

Under-15 boys 1. Kian Oelofse, Lookout Point, 28-32 = 60; 2. Andrew Burciul, 30-32 = 62; 3. Dawson Dermatas, St. Catharines, 33-35 = 68; 4. Carter Fulkerson, Players Club, Ottawa, 36-33 = 69; 5. Matthew Gray, Sawmill, 36-34 = 70.

Under-13 boys 1. Brennan Turner, Peninsula Lakes, 28-37 = 65; 2. Daxx Partridge, St. Louis Catharines, 30-36 = 66; 3. Vince Belardi, Sawmill, 35-32 = 67; 4. Jack Vitiello, Sawmill, 34-37 = 71; 5. Carter Thompson, 47-39 = 86.

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