Cabot’s Connor Gaunt and North Little Rock’s Mackenzie Lee finished runner-up in their divisions of the Arkansas State Golf Association Junior Match Play Championship at Eagle Hill Golf and Athletic Club.
Gaunt, who shot 69 in qualifying for the No. 3 seed in the 64-player boys field, lost to Miles Smith of Little Rock in the championship, 4 and 3.
“It was a good week,” Gaunt said. “I shot a good score (in qualifying), and when you’re the third seed, that makes it a little easier. I played a lot of good players. Miles is a great player, and it was a really good match.”
He said he wasn’t disappointed by his runner-up finish.
“I played great, and four days of walking 36 holes wore me out,” he said. “I was pretty happy with that.”
Lee, who shot 77 for the fifth seed in the 16-player girls bracket, fell to Forrest City’s Elizabeth Moon, who won a record third championship, 2 up. Lee, just 13, had knocked off Brooke Matthews, 18, of Rogers, the defending champion who will play for the University of Arkansas in the fall, 5 and 4.
“I wasn’t really expecting to win (against Matthews),” Lee, a rising eighth grader at LISA Academy in North Little Rock, said Monday. “I thought, ‘Let’s just have fun now.’”
But she was on, winning holes with chip-ins and long putts. She was 4 up after 11 holes and won, 5 and 4, after getting up and down for par and a three-putt bogey by her opponent.
Lee said the tournament was probably the highlight of her young career.
“Honestly, I knew I could beat some of them, but I was not expecting to beat (Matthews),” she said. “I was quite surprised.”
In boys match play, Gaunt knocked off Davidson Dunkum of Little Rock in the first round, 9 and 7; Ben Bronson of Little Rock in the second, 3 and 2; Cade Riggin of Paragould in the third, 2 up; Jackson Marseilles of Harrison in the quarterfinals, 6 and 5; and Hunter Hickingbotham of Little Rock, the second seed, in the semis, 2 and 1.
Other local results in the boys tournament included Blaine Calhoon, the medalist and top seed, who beat Zach Brown of Hot Springs in the opening round, 6 and 5, before falling to Denver Davis of Fayetteville, 3 and 2; Hagen Sanchez of Maumelle, who lost his opening match to Logan Greer of Harrison in 19 holes; Cade Carter of Austin, who fell to Noah Lopez of Fayetteville in the opening round, 1 up; Ryan Robinson of Lonoke, who beat Nathan Johnson of LIttle Rock in the opening round, 2 up, before falling to Parker Jennings of Marion, 4 and 3; Logan Stephens of Cabot, who beat Grayson Martin of White Hall, WD, and Grant Haynes of Fayetteville, 2 up, before falling to Jackson Cole of Fayetteville, 2 and 1; Caleb Miller of Cabot, who beat Jacob Nolan of Fayetteville, 3 and 2, before falling to Riggin, 1 up; and Hunter Walker of Sherwood, who beat Payne Hill of Little Rock, 3 and 1, before falling to Marseilles, 3 and 2.
In girls match play, Lee knocked off Sydney Stiener of Conway, 3 and 2; and Grace Blount of Hot Springs, 2 and 1 in the quarterfinals, before the semifinal against Matthews.
Other local results from the girls tournament included Alexis Montgomery of Maumelle over Sydney Staton of Fort Smith, 1 up, before falling to Matthews, 3 and 2; Josie Roberson of Maumelle, who beat Kinslee Miller of Rogers, 5 and 4; before falling to Hannah Bakalekos of Sherwood, 2 and 1; Bakalekos, who beat Allie Weiner of Maumelle, 2 and 1, and Roberson before falling to Moon in the semifinals, 4 and 3
Making his starts count
Lonoke’s Stafford Gray said he usually only plays a handful of Arkansas State Golf Association-designated tournaments a year, and so far in 2017, he has a pretty good average.
Gray, 32, tied for second in the Arkansas State Amateur at Hot Springs Village’s DeSoto course two weeks ago to earn 150 points toward the Player of the Year and Governor’s Cup team. His win Sunday in the Maumelle Classic should clinch the team, he said.
“I don’t play for Player of the Year,” he said. “I play to make the Cup team.”
Gray is entered in the Sherwood Men’s Amateur at The Greens at North Hills this weekend, but he said he would not play in the ASGA Match Play Championship at Lost Springs in Rogers Aug. 10-13.
“I’ve got a guys’ trip with my buddies that week,” he said after donning the champion’s green jacket at Maumelle on Sunday. “I normally only play three or four (a season). I’ve got a 2-year-old, and I’ll enjoy spending the weekends with her.”
Maumelle’s Taylor Loeb finished runner-up for the second straight year in the Arkansas Women’s Golf Association Match Play Championship recently at the Country Club of Arkansas.
Loeb, a sophomore at Henderson State, won the stroke play portion over her old pal Bakalekos by 10 strokes, but Bakalekos turned the tables on her friend with a 3 and 1 win in the match play final.
“I was super-excited when I won stroke, and I wanted to win the match play part,” Loeb said. “It’s frustrating, but I’m really glad Hannah was the one who won.”
Loeb said she would play an AWGA event at Maumelle Country Club Aug. 12-13 before heading back to Arkadelphia for the school year.
Bakalekos, who had previously won the Burns Park Junior Invitational this summer, said she didn’t play well in the first round, finishing with an 82.
“I knew I had to play better in the match play,” she said. “I like match play.”
Sherwood Men’s Amateur Championship, The Greens at North Hills, July 29-30; Big Creek Men’s Stroke, Big Creek CC, Aug. 5-6; ASGA Match Play, Lost Springs, Rogers, Aug. 10-13; RidgePointe Men’s Stroke Play, RidgePointe CC, Jonesboro, Aug. 19-20; U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifying, Paradise Valley, Fayetteville, Aug. 28