Tales of the Tour Championship
Buckeye Junior Golf Tour Championship
State College, PA, July 10th, 2023 — Another year, another Tour Championship hosted at Penn State Golf Courses-Blue. This course is adored by many including the BJGT staff as it a perfect host facility for a Tour Championship. The college level set up of the course, the great amenities offered and the overall atmosphere of being at a BIG Ten school always brings a huge buzz of excitement to the Tour at this time. This course uses the rolling terrain of State College and natural trees to make for a challenging set-up around the Front-9. The Back-9 uses strategically placed bunkers and well-placed water hazards to make sure you aren’t lacking on accuracy as you make the turn. Let’s dive into what ended up being an amazing record-breaking weekend at the 2023 BJGT Tour Championship.
Round 1 – Saturday, July 8th – An absolutely beautiful day was in store for the field as a slight breeze cooled off what was a hot day. The course got some rain on Friday during our Fourball practice rounds making for some soft-landing spots and some thick rough that can snag the slightest of errors.
The Boys 15-19 were struggling the most with the hardest Par-3 on the course Hole-14. Going over the huge water hazard to land on a very slanted and small green makes this one of the hardest holes around. The pin placement was set in the middle giving you absolutely no relief for an overpowered or poor accuracy tee shot so being on point here was absolutely crucial to score low in Round 1. The hole featured only 1 Birdie out of the huge field of Boys 15-19 in Round 1. The Birdie came from JT Krynock from Reading, Pennsylvania. The Boys were salivating as they came up to Hole-11 in Round 1. This extremely short 310-Yard hole sits at the 16th-handicap and coughs up tons of Birdies year-in-and-year-out. The goal on this hole is just to avoid the 4 extremely large bunkers that turn the fairway into a snake shaped minefield. If you can avoid those this elevated green allows for some easy approach shots and many Birdie opportunities. Almost 15% of the field picked up Birdies on this hole. Ryan Thomas from Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania and Evan Jozwiak, last years Tour Championship Winner, from Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania absolutely demolished the Course in Round 1 both taking home 68’s (-4’s) to be at the top of the Leaderboard in Round 1. Huge congrats to both of them as they tied the BJGT All-Time 18-Hole Scoring Record and BJGT All-Time 18-Hole Relative-To-Par Scoring Record with those cards. Ryan also became the 3rd-Player to Tie the BJGT All-Time 9-Hole Relative-to-Par Scoring Record with his -4 on the Front-9. Great job from both of these two gentlemen to etch their names into the BJGT Record Books. Not only were those scores great the player that sat right behind them was Logan Crowe from Avella, Pennsylvania with his awesome 70 (-2) in Round 1. Round 2 at the Tour Championship was shaping up to be a blast to watch, as usual, with these extremely low scores ready to go at it.
The Girls 14-19 were struggling the most with the hardest hole on the golf course Hole-3. This is a blind tee shot up and over a hill. The hole is tree-lined on both sides so a shot in the fairway is needed for your best chance at being able to approach this green. The green is also below your feet making for an interesting club choice as you approach the flagstick. The hole also dog-legs, so let’s just say that the tee shot is difficult all-around. There are also two large bunkers on the left and right sides of the green making your approach shot needing accuracy. 40% of the field did pick up a Bogey on the hole which led the field. The Front-9 of the Blue-Course is just filled with extremely hard hole. The Girls did not let it bother them though as they played Hole-6, the 5th-hardest hole on the course the best in Round 1. At 331-Yards the hole has average distance from the Buckeye-White Tees. Once again, you have a tree lined fairway. However, the hardest part about the hole is the 3 large bunkers that sit guarding the green. There is one on the left and right but there is a sneaky one on the short right side that has been known to grab a lot of golf balls for those players that land short of the green. Make sure you power through and go for the flagstick as even rolling off the back is better than dealing with these tough bunkers. Hannah Higgins coming all the way from North Canton, Ohio picked up at least a stroke on the rest of the Field as she was the only player able to Birdie the hole. We are wishing Hannah the best as she continues her golf and academic career at D-2 Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois! With the Birdie on Hole-6 it helped Hannah to take the lead and she was at the top of the leaderboard after Round 1 with a 76. Hannah was followed closely behind by another soon to be college golfer and BJGT superstar Cassidy Miksich from Tyrone, Pennsylvania with a 79.
The hardest hole for the Boys 10-14 in Round 1 was Hole-7. This is the 3rd-hardest hole on the golf course. Playing at 362-Yards it has some pretty long distance for our Younger Boys. The hardest part about this hole is the dog-leg. Getting your drive to fade into the fairway in a good spot can be difficult for most players. This is especially true on this hole because if you fade it too much you are going to end up in the trees on the left ending your chance for a Par. The green on this hole is extremely big but a strategically placed bunker on the left side makes it hard for those players that did have good drives to have a clear shot into the hole. Pars from BJGT big shots Dane Mohap from Nazareth, Pennsylvania and Mickey Battista from Fulton, Maryland led the Field. In a surprising effort the Boys 10-14 found Hole-14 to be playing the easiest in Round 1. This is super impressive as this hole is in no way easy. It just goes to show how talented this Division is and we cannot wait to see what they do in the future. The average was helped by Birdies from Ethan Bobonski from Clinton, Pennsylvania and Dylan Murray from Glenshaw, Pennsylvania. After Round 1 it was the typical sight of Dane Mohap at the top and he was equaled by Buckeye Cup superstar Joshua Rusmisel from West Alexander, Pennsylvania. Both players shot amazing Rounds of 71 (-1). Bodie Winfield from Middletown, Maryland continued his strong showing in his first two Buckeye events by following-up Dane and Joshua.
Round 2 – Sunday, July 9th –There was a high probability of rain in Round 2 and we did have to suspend play a couple of times in the round. Our players and spectators handled it extremely well and we can’t thank them enough for understanding that weather is all a part of the game of golf.
In a surprising turn of events the Boys 15-19 were struggling the most with the 2nd-easiest hole on the golf course, Hole-8. This is a straight uphill Par-3 that sits at 173-yards but plays more like 193 with the way the pin, wind and slope were playing in Round 2. Easier said than done but you do not want to leave your shot short on this hole. If you do you risk going into one of the three bunkers that surround the green. These bunkers are tough as well as they get the majority of the weather on the course and seem to retain a lot of the rain making the sand dump and hard to clear. Only about 10% of the field were able to pick up a Par on this hole in Round 2. The Boys 15-19 ended their 36-Holes extremely strong playing Hole-18 the best in Round 2. Sitting at the 10th-handicap this hole has medium toughness. At just 483-Yards the distance is one of the easiest things to conquer for the Boys 15-19. However, accuracy off your tee shot is needed as 2 large ponds sit on either side of the fairway waiting to snag any balls that are off-line. As you approach the green 3 large bunkers guard the left side of the green and a very large oak tree guards the right side. Aim for the right and try to keep your shot low so that you can run it up onto this large flat green. More than 25% of the Field picked up Birdies on the 18th on Sunday. It was an absolute battle at the top of the leaderboard between Ryan Thomas and Evan Jozwiak in Round 2. They gave us a ton of entertainment and a lot to cheer about as these two went back and forth at the top all day long. In the end it was Ryan Thomas shooting his Even Par in Round 2 to come in on Top. Ryan ends the tournament with a -4 (140) total tying him with the BJGT All-Time 36-Hole Record and taking home the BJGT All-Time 36-Hole Relative to Par score, -4, title all to himself. We are extremely proud of Ryan and what he was able to accomplish at the Tour Championship. Ryan was consistent all day leading his Division with the Most Pars or Better (31). He also had his long ball working leading the division in Par-5’s (-3) in the tournament. His 4 Birdies, 3 Pars and 1 Bogey on those holes was extremely impressive to watch. Congratulations to Ryan Thomas on being the 2023 BJGT Tour Championship Champion! Evan Jozwiak came into this weekend determined to keep his title as Champion of the Tour Championship. He gave it everything he had and just came up just a little short. Evan is extremely fun to watch as he as absolute Birdie Machine leading the Division and taking home 10 of them in the tournament. His 16-Hole Bogey-Free-Streak was the longest in the tournament by any player and allowed him to maintain a comfortable demeaner throughout. Huge congratulations to Evan as he was Champion in 2022 and Runner-Up in 2023 at our Tour Championship an absolutely phenomenal feat. We wish him the best of luck as he continues his academic and golf career in college!
The Girls 14-19 started the day in a little bit of a funk finding Hole-1 to be playing the toughest in Round 2. This hole has medium toughness at it sits at the 9th-handicap and 345-Yards. The hardest part about this hole are the 5 bunkers that are placed around the hole. The first one is off to the right of the fairway and sits at 180-Yards off the tee. However, it does stretch about 20 yards so anything in the 180-200 Yard range off right could get into this bunker ruining any chance for a Birdie on the hole. The other 4 are placed around the green with 2 on the left and 2 on the right side. Going long on this hole is not bad as the green is relatively flat and allows for some easy chips onto it. Only 30% of the field were able to pick up a Par on this hole in Round 2. The easiest hole for the Girls in Round 2 was the 290-Yard, Par-4, 15th-Hole. This is the 8th-handicap hole on the course that offers a couple of problem areas. The first is the absolutely gigantic bunker that sits on the right side of the fairway that stretches from 80 Yards off the tee to 140-Yards. A 60-Yard bunker complete with vegetation throughout the middle of it can be extremely hard to contend with. The next is your approach shot has to clear a creek to land on a very tiny green. The left side of the green is almost out of play unless you play your approach exactly right. It is best to aim for the center or right side to at least give yourself the chance to make a putt. Hannah Higgins continued her strong Tour Championship performance picking up a Birdie on the hole alongside Nisa Sillence from Finksburg, Maryland. Hannah made the trip all the way out from Ohio and was able to cash in on her long travel by taking home the Champion flag. Hannah led her division with 5 Birdies, helping her to low scores both days. Her consistency throughout the weekend was showcased on the Par-4’s where she went +4, 4 shots better than her nearest competitor. Hannah got in the driver seat early and stayed there by going on a 9-Hole Bogey-Free-Streak from Holes 8-16 in Round 2. That is the mentality of a winner right there. Huge congrats to Hannah as she has come out to the Tour Championship the past 3 seasons and earned herself a much-deserved win at it in 2023. We are wishing her all the best at Lewis University in the Fall! Cassidy Miksich continues her absolutely torrid 2023 Season, as she came in as our Runner-Up. Cassidy was smoking the ball off the tee throughout the event and took a -1 on the Par-5’s to lead her division. Huge congrats to Cassidy as she earns her 6th Trophy Flag in 7 events in 2023 and 11th trophy flag overall in her BJGT Career. I would love to see a rematch of these two Girls playing, I might give the Alvernia and Lewis coaches a call and see if we can get a meeting between these two Ladies college teams.
In a surprising turn of events the hardest hole in Round 2 for the Boys 10-14 was the 15th-Handicap, Par-3, 4th-Hole. The first Par-3 on the course is guarded by a ton of trees and bunkers. At 146-yards the hole isn’t log but you are going to need to have fantastic accuracy. If possible, try to draw your ball in from right to left so that it avoids the trees and can hopefully land on the green safely or the apron. The 3 bunkers that guard the green all sit on the front side so clubbing up off the tee box is an option. A little over 60% of the field picked up Pars on this hole. The younger Boys finished the Front-9 off in grand fashion in Round 2. They played Hole-9 just slightly above Par and the best on the day. This Par-5 sits at 498-Yards an easy challenge for these hard swinging Boys. This hole offers up probably the biggest dog-leg on the course. Cutting off the corner on your 2nd shot is the way to get back some distance. Avoiding the 5 bunkers is easier said than done as 2 of them sit on either side of the fairway on the approach and 3 guard the front side of the green with 2 on the right center and one on the left. Birdies from Joshua Rusmisel and Vyom Shukla from Berwyn, Pennsylvania helped to make this the best played Hole of the day for the Boys 10-14. Joshua and Dane battled for almost the entire tournament but it was Dane Mohap who came in as our Champion. Dane thoroughly deserved the Tour Championship Champion flag in 2023 as he has absolutely dominated the year. Dane has now been the Champion in all 6 tournaments he has played in this year and he has no plans on stopping his streak. Dane’s consistency is just hard to beat for other players. He had the Most Pars in the Division with 27 and played the Par-4’s the best for the Boys 10-14. Dane’s 14-Hole Bogey-Free-Streak from Holes 5-18 in Round 1 put him at the top of the Leaderboard and it was going to be tough to take him down with his skill. Huge congrats to Dane on another flag to add to his collection, we are going to need to purchase him some sort of trophy case as he might start running out of room to put these things by the end of 2023. Joshua Rusmisel came in as our Runner-Up. We have seen Josh play for a couple of years now as he was on the 2021 Western Pennsylvania Buckeye Cup Team that took home the Buckeye Cup that season. We knew that he was going to be good and it was so great to see him put everything together here at the 2023 Tour Championship. Like his counterparts that also earned Trophy Flags Josh put together a slew of Birdies in the tournament, leading his division with 6, to help himself to the top of the Leaderboard. Josh also had the long ball working for him this weekend going an amazing -3 on the Par-5’s in the event and leading that category by 3-strokes. Congratulations to a Buckeye Cup staple in Josh on showing that not only can he be a force in Match Play he can also be just as good in Stroke Play!
Another year, another Tour Championship down. Boy, was this a good one. The Tour Championship never disappoints as every year we have got to sit back and watch on Hole-18 as final pairings have come in with everything on the line. It makes it fun for everyone to watch and this year was no exception. We want to thank everyone for handling the weather delay with great respect. I don’t want to brag but I think we have the best players and spectators in Junior Golf. The halfway point of the season is behind us and we move into the later part of the 2023 Season. Do not miss some great tournaments coming up including Links of Gettysburg, Rattlewood, Heritage Hills and of course the 2023 BUCKEYE CUP. Buckeye Cup invites will be sent out in the next couple of days to 1st Round Ballot invitees. We will be changing the format from region based to a Team Draft format. BJGT staff Members including myself (Arick Downard, Executive Director), Dan Schwenkel (Director of Operations), Sean Carey (Tournament Director) and Tori Downey (Tournament Director) will be Team Captains and will be drafting teams live on Instagram once we fill out the roster. Spots are limited for this event and go very fast as it is one of our most anticipated and fun tournaments of the Season. Thanks for a great 2023 Tour Championship everyone!