Saggers claims 70th #GAPJrJr title at Merchantville
CHERRY HILL, N.J. - All Benjamin Saggers wanted was another shot.
After losing to Lu Lu Country Club’s Josh Ryan, 2&1, in last year’s Junior-Junior Boys’ Final at Phoenixville Country Club, all Saggers could think about was if he’d get another chance to win.
Saggers used an automatic putter and steadfast determination to claim the 70th Golf Association of Philadelphia Junior-Junior Boys’ Championship over Wilmington Country Club’s Matthew Homer, 4&3, at Merchantville Country Club (par 72, 5,885 yards).
“It means a lot to win because I came so close last year,” said Saggers, 13, of West Chester, Pa. “To get back to the Final this year was a confidence booster for me today. I was glad I had another chance to win. I knew what I had to do today and I stayed focused.”
The putter was the difference in Wednesday's match. Homer’s was uncooperative throughout the match’s entirety, while Saggers’ was clutch.
After the match was All Square through No. 8 (par 4, 373 yards), Saggers hit his drive into the left trees, which blocked him out from the green. Saggers then hit a tremendous hook around the tree to 40 feet.
Homer found the left greenside bunker and hit out to 15 feet as Saggers lined up the 40-footer.
Saggers screamed “sit” as his ball trundled toward the hole. But as the ball rolled over the lip of the cup on one of its last revolutions, Saggers fist-pumped as he took the 1-up advantage.
“I thought the putt was 10 feet by when I hit it,” said Saggers, of Applecross Country Club. “When it dropped, I was really happy because I wanted the lead heading into the back nine.”
After halving No. 10 (par 5, 460 yards) with pars, both players agreed the turning point came on No. 11 (par 5, 525 yards).
Saggers hit his layup in the left rough, and once again was faced with tree trouble on the approach. His punch shot ran through the back of the green and Homer’s second from the fairway came up 15 feet short of the green.
Homer then hit his chip to 10 feet and Saggers putted down to three feet and converted his par. After missing his birdie, Homer faced a three-footer to halve.
He missed and Saggers took the lead for good.
“His putt was a little bit outside of my comfort level to give him it,” said Saggers. “I can’t give him a three-footer in a championship match. I told myself I was just going to make him make it. I gained a lot of momentum from that.”
Homer’s frustration with the putter was evident throughout the match.
“I just didn’t putt well today,” said Homer, 13, of Wilmington, Del., an incoming eighth grader at the Tatnall School. “I didn’t have a good feel for the greens and I let my emotions get the best of me. I didn’t feel that nervous today.
“I had a really good week here. I hit the golf ball really well this week. I just couldn’t make anything. It is what it is.”
Saggers then drained a 25-footer for birdie on No. 12 (par 3, 127 yards) to take a 3-up advantage.
“I knew once he started to get frustrated that it would be an advantage for me,” said Saggers. “I kept in my own place and did what I had to do. I focused on me.”
The match would end on No. 15 (par 3, 170 yards) with another clutch three-footer for par from Saggers.
“To win two of the tournaments (GAP Junior-Junior and the Pennsylvania Golf Association Junior-Junior) I wanted to play well in, that is a huge confidence booster,” said Saggers. “It feels good to win this tournament.”
After celebrating his victory alone on the green, he embraced with his father Nick, mother Beth and sister Katherine, who were there every step of the way this week.
“To know my family supports me is huge,” said Saggers, an incoming eighth grader at Saint Phillip James School. “I thank them all of the time for that. That hug was great after I won because it shows they care about me. It’s good to know that I am not alone.”
The investment made in his new putter has paid dividends. He said it was ultimately the key to his success.
“I stood over every four-footer knowing that it was going into the hole. That was a huge confidence booster for me considering I just got it three weeks ago. It’s not leaving my bag any time soon,” said the grinning champion.
Now in its 70th year, the Junior-Junior Boys’ Championship is open to players from Member Clubs who are 10 to 13 years of age.
Golf Association of Philadelphia