James and Cranston win World Juniors Dustin Johnson

James and Cranston win World Juniors Dustin Johnson

Ben James and Katie Cranston

Ben James (Milford, Conn.) survived a sudden playoff and Katie Cranston (Oakville, Ont., Canada) played brilliantly to rally from a four-stroke deficit to win the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship presented by LA Golf Sunday at TPC Myrtle Beach. James shot a pair of 67s on the first two days of the tournament, taking a three-shot lead in the final round, but what seemed like a crowning achievement for the top-ranked US junior turned into a dogfight on a sunny but windy day. The University of Virginia signee bugged four of the first six holes and had a pair of doubles on the back nine, forcing him to birdie the TPC par-5 18 to shoot 76 and tie Jack Roberts (St. Mary’s, Georgia) at 6 cents par.

Roberts started the day five shots behind James but shot a 71, including two birdies in the stretch, to earn his share of the lead after 54 holes.

The sudden first playoff in DJ World Junior’s seven years lacked the drama of the final round. Roberts tee shot out of bounds on the 18th hole and James hit the green in two, making a comfortable two putt and the game-winning birdie.

Erik Plenge (Lima, Peru), Luke Clanton (Hialeah, Florida), Nicholas Gross (Downingtown, Pennsylvania) and Cooper Jones (Highland, Utah) all finished tied for third at 4 under par.

Cranston shot a 68, highlighted by his first-ever hole-in-one on the par-three 13th hole. She finished the event at 5 under par, four strokes ahead of second-round leader Bailey Shoemaker (Dade City, Fla.).

The 68 equaled the lowest round in tournament history and there came a day when the average score in the girls’ field was 77.

The highlight of the round was Cranston’s ace on the 180-yard 13th hole. She hit a 7 iron on a hidden pin to take control of the tournament.

Shoemaker opened and closed the day with birdies but struggled in between, shooting 76 to finish at 1 under par. Kylie Chong (Torrance, Calif.), Gianna Clemente (Warren, Ohio), Nicole Gal (Oakville, Ont.) and Alexia Siehl (Fort Mill, SC) tied for third with +5.

A 54-hole varsity-style event, the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship features boys’ and girls’ tournaments and the 90-player field (60 boys, 30 girls) includes 70 of the top 100 juniors.

The boys’ field, which featured 44 top-100 players, was headlined by James, No. 2 Caleb Surratt and No. 4 Luke Clanton (Hialeah, Fla.). All three players are seniors and signed to play college golf – James at the University of Virginia, Surratt at the University of Tennessee and Clanton at Florida State University.

The girls field was led by junior Bailey Shoemaker (Dade City, Fla.), third American girl, #13 Gianna Clemente (Warren, Ohio) and #23 Lucy Yuan.

With the support of Johnson, the highest ranked golfer in the world, the tournament offers players a PGA Tour-like experience and the chance to compete against some of the best juniors in the game.

A major part of the event’s appeal is the TPC Myrtle Beach, one of the most ornate amenities on the Grand Strand. TPC Myrtle Beach has hosted the Senior PGA Tour Championship and has been named one of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses” by Golf Digest, making it an ideal place to test young golfing stars.

The past men’s champions for the event are: 2016 – Blake Taylor (East Carolina), 2017 – Trent Phillips (Georgia), 2018 – Michael Brennan (Wake Forest), 2019 – Akshay Bhatia, 2020 – Tyler Wilkes (Florida ), 2021 – Nicholas Dunlap (Alabama). Previous girls winners are: 2016 – Delaney Shah (Louisville), 2017 – Skylar Thompson (Ohio State), 2017, 2018 – Alex Pano, 2020 – Taylor Roberts (Florida State), 2021 – Jacqueline Putrino.

Johnson’s involvement in the tournament reflects his longstanding commitment to junior golf, particularly in South Carolina, where he became one of the best players in the world. Through the Dustin Johnson Foundation, headquartered in Myrtle Beach, Johnson has donated more than $500,000 to junior golf, sponsoring numerous events statewide and helping cover entry fees. children who need financial help.

by Chris King, special for AmateurGolf.com

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ABOUT Dustin Johnson World Juniors

Launched in 2016 by the Dustin Johnson Foundation, the Dustin Johnson Junior World Championship is a 54-hole invitational event for boys and girls ages 13-18. Those who do not meet the invitation criteria will have the opportunity to earn a place via an 18-hole qualifier prior to the event.

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