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Berkshire’s Evan Thornton shakes hands with Fox Hill’s Mariano Medico.

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Fox Hill’s Medico captures 98th Junior Boys’ Championship

  PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Mariano Medico of Fox Hill Country Club and Evan Thornton of Berkshire Country Club saved their best for last, turning the Junior Boys’ Championship Final into a captivating display of great golf shots and mental fortitude Wednesday. When the fireworks evaporated, a cool and collected Medico bested a resilient Thornton, 1-up at Torresdale-Frankford Country Club. It’s the first time in the tournament’s 98-year history that different members of the same club won in consecutive years. Brandon Matthews captured the Peg Burnett Trophy last year.

   “Seeing Brandon win it last year gave me a lot of motivation to come here and play well,” an enthusiastic Medico, 16, of Shavertown, Pa., said. “[Before I played today], he said ‘go out there and shoot even par, put your name beneath mine and bring the trophy back to Fox Hill. It feels great. I was really happy with how I played this week. I hit a couple bad shots, but I recovered really well, and that’s what made the difference. I’m just really excited to be among the other guys like Brandon who have won this tournament.”

  Both Medico and Thornton came close to even par in the Final, carding the stroke play equivalent of 2 and 3 over, respectively. Thornton seized an early lead with a birdie on No. 1 (par 4, 345 yards), drilling an 8-iron 145 yards to 10 feet. A firm grasp on his putting stroke would boost Thornton, 17, throughout the contest.

   “I just kept hitting my putts right on line. I thought everything was going to fall,” the Wyomissing, Pa. resident said.

  The contest drew All-Square after a Thornton bogey on the next hole (par 4, 377 yards). High quality shots became the match’s main attraction as both Medico and Thornton went club for club, fairway to green on the next four holes. Medico gained command on the difficult par 4, 459-yard No. 7 after a phenomenal chip-in birdie. A downwind 6-iron shot from 185 yards landed inches off the front of the green.

   “It was so far uphill that I thought I’d take out the 54-degree (wedge) and try to bump it up, and then it went in,” Medico, an incoming junior at Holy Redeemer High School, said. “That was a little motivation.”

  Thornton missed the No. 9 (par 3, 175 yards) green with a 7-iron and couldn’t convert a 2-footer for par, giving Medico a 2-up advantage with nine holes remaining. The long-hitting Thornton, though, used distance to his advantage on the par 5, 484-yard 10th hole. He barely missed the putting surface with a 3-wood, guided a chip to two feet and tapped-in for birdie. Thornton appeared to have an opening to draw even on the next hole (par 3, 215 yards) after Medico deposited his hybrid into the water hazard. Relying on his knack for recovery, Medico lofted a wedge 80 yards to 10 feet below the flagstick and dropped his putt over the left edge for a 4. Thornton blocked a 4-iron right — a few feet from the cart path. He flew the green with a wedge and failed to match Medico’s score.

  The two traded miscues on Nos. 13 (par 5, 557 yards) and 15 (par 4, 299 yards) in the form of bunker bogeys, setting the table for a dramatic conclusion. Medico was dormie on the par 3, 190-yard 17th hole, but left his 5-iron on the lip of the front bunker and didn't halve the hole.

   “That was difficult,” he said. “I think I got too worried about my stance and I didn’t really concentrate on how hard I should hit my golf shot. It just flew out of there and made it to the back of the green.”

  With one last opportunity to seal a victory, Medico faced a tricky approach shot on the par 4, 375-yard 18th hole. A feisty Thornton reached the green in regulation, pressing Medico to negotiate a 158-yard shot off an uphill slope, with tree limbs overhanging his golf ball. Medico answered the recovery call, drilling a 6-iron that somehow, someway, landed 40 yards in front of the right-front, greenside bunker, hopped over and swirled around the green and stopped 15 feet above the flagstick.

   “Under the circumstances, it was probably one of the best shots I’ve hit,” Medico said. “He [caddie Jonathan Burns] said just aim at the American flag. Hit it 100 yards and run it up to the green. I got lucky.”

  Thornton nearly canned an uphill 60-footer for birdie. Medico ran his birdie try two feet by and tapped in for a hole-halving, championship-winning 4.

   “It’s been a really remarkable week,” Thornton said. “My goal was to make it to match play, and I ran it all the way to the Final. I was always happy. I played great in the Final. Mariano played better.”

Semifinals
  A terrific 2 under on the front nine propelled Medico to a 4&3 victory over Brock Kovach of Berkshire Country Club. He hit an 8-iron 140 yards to four feet on No. 3 (par 4, 408 yards), a 7-iron 172 yards to six feet on No. 8 (par 4, 440 yards) for birdie.

   “I was very proud of my performance,” Kovach, 16, of Wyomissing, Pa., said. “My goal was to win it once I got into the semifinals, but I came up against a tough opponent who I think played his best all week. It was tough to beat him.”

  Before facing Medico in the Final, Thornton survived a contentious clash against Kevin Conners, Jr. of Whitford Country Club, triumphing in 21 holes. Thornton trailed by two entering the par 5, 563-yard 16th hole, where he was conceded birdie following a delicate chip from just left of the green.

  Thornton found the fairway on the difficult No. 18 (par 4, 390 yards) while Conners steered his drive into the right tree-line. Conners then attempted to reason with overhanging limbs, only to watch his golf ball backfire onto the adjacent No. 9 green. A 105-yard wedge shot and two-putt from Thornton forced extra holes.

  On the 21st hole (par 4, 408 yards), a wayward drive sealed Conners’ fate. The Downingtown, Pa. resident relied on a sideways punch-out, and then flew a 52-degree wedge from 100 yards over the green.

   “I played well all week. It’s just been a good experience,” Conners, 15, an incoming sophomore at Bishop Shanahan High School, said. “I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it done.”

  First Flight
  Jake Van Arkel of Merion Golf Club edged J.T. Twomey of Jericho National Golf Club in 19 holes to win the First Flight.

   “It feels pretty good,” Van Arkel, 16, of Haverford, Pa., said. “I tried to play solid, smart golf today. Sometimes I had poorly hit shots, but I persevered through that.”

   “It’s been awesome,” Twomey, 17, of Newtown, Pa., said. “This was my first [GAP] Junior. The course was beautiful.”

Finals
Championship Flight
9. Mariano Medico, Fox Hill CC, d. 11. Evan Thornton, Berkshire CC, 1-up.
First Flight
12. Jake Van Arkel, Merion GC, d. 15. J.T. Twomey, Jericho National GC, 19 holes.

Semifinals
Championship Flight
9. Medico d. 13. Brock Kovach, Berkshire CC, 4&3; 11. Thornton d. 7. Kevin Conners, Jr., Whitford CC, 21 holes.
First Flight
12. Van Arkel d. 9. Sean Fahey, Overbrook GC, 2-up; 15. Twomey d. 14. Ryan Foll, Yardley CC, 2&1.

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