Cabot’s Connor Gaunt is the Arkansas State Golf Association’s Junior Boys Player of the Year for 2017.
With the final scheduled event, the Jonesboro Junior Stroke, cancelled, Gaunt, 16, a rising junior at Cabot High School, finished with 925 points, well ahead of runner-up Jackson Marseilles of Harrison (667).
“That was my goal coming into the year,” he said Sunday. “It’s a real honor; I had a great year with five wins. My worst finish was seventh place, so it was good to reach my goal.”
Gaunt will lead the local contingent for the Southern Junior Cup Matches, a competition among the best players in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Alabama, to be played Aug. 1-3 at The Country Club of Oxford in Mississippi.
In 12 ASGA tournaments, Gaunt, 16, won the Shadow Valley Junior Championship, Bubba Smart Memorial, Chuck Morton Memorial and Randy Beaver Memorial and tied for first in the Burns Park Junior Invitational. He finished second at the ASGA Junior Match Play, the Greers Ferry Junior and tied for second in the Greater Little Rock Junior Championship. He finished third in the Arkansas Junior Amateur and Bruce Jenkins Memorial, tied for fourth in the Monk Wade Junior Classic and tied for seventh in qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
Gaunt improved from his seventh-place finish in 2016.
Maumelle’s Josie Roberson, 16, who eked past Elizabeth Moon of Forrest City last year, 850 points to 836.66, finished runner-up to Moon this time. Thanks to a record third title in the ASGA’s Junior Girls Match Play Championship, Moon finished with 1,045 points to Roberson’s 800.
“I had a good start in the summer, but I didn’t win as many in the middle (of the season), and Elizabeth was winning some,” Roberson said. “We were back and forth, first and second, and it all came down to the Match Play, especially after Jonesboro was cancelled.
“I knew what I needed to do in I match play. I knew she was good.”
Roberson, who earned medalist honors in the Junior Match, won one match before falling in the quarterfinals to Sherwood’s Hannah Bakalekos, a recent North Little Rock graduate.
“I did have a tough draw,” Roberson said. “Hannah’s a tough competitor, and you have to be on your game. Match play is not really my thing; I’m more of a stroke-play person. But I knew I had to play hard.”
In 15 tournaments this season, Roberson won four — the Greater Little Rock Junior Championship, Monk Wade Junior Classic, Chuck Morton Memorial and Tom Millikin Memorial. She finished runner-up in the Greers Ferry Junior; tied for second in the Southern Bancorp/Alliance Insurance Junior; finished third in the Arkansas Junior Amateur and Bubba Smart Memorial and tied for third in the Burns Park Junior; took fourth in the Randy Beaver Memorial; finished fifth in the Shadow Valley Junior, Northwest Arkansas Junior, Trusted Choice Big “I” qualifying and tied for fifth in the ASGA Junior Match Play; and was sixth in the Bruce Jenkins Memorial.
“I knew what I needed to do in I the Match Play, and I got knocked out pretty early, but that’s all right,” said Roberson, a rising junior at Central Arkansas Christian. “I still have more years to do something else.
“(Player of the Year) was last year’s goal, so it wasn’t as big this year. This year I was more focused on playing well, and I feel like I did.”
Other locals on the junior boys list included Blaine Calhoon of Ward, fifth with 383.5 points; Logan Stephens of Cabot, 14th with 157; Hunter Walker of Sherwood, 23rd, 107; Hyun Je Lee of North Little Rock, 26th, 96.75; Caleb Miller of Cabot, tied for 31st, 70; Ryan Robinson of Lonoke, 45th, 24.4; Cade Carter of Austin, tied for 49th, 12; and Evan James of North Little Rock, tied for 57th, 2.4.
Four other local golfers finished among the top 10 in the junior girls race. Mackenzie Lee of North Little Rock was third with 702.5 points, followed by Bakalekos, fourth, 467; Alexis Montgomery of Maumelle, sixth, 384; and Allie Weiner of Maumelle, 10th, 230. Lauren Loeb of Maumelle tied for 25th with 44 points. Kaitlyn Haynes of North Little Rock was 34th with 12 points.
After the Southern Junior Cup Matches next week, most local juniors will move on to the high school season.