Bonnie Doon’s Sam Cascio and Avondale’s Rachel Lee have been crowned champions at the 2023 Macarthur Junior Masters.
Cascio claimed his maiden JNJG title at Campbelltown Golf Club, whilst Lee’s victory at Camden Golf Club may have just been the most impressive of an already outstanding junior career.
After starting the final round one shot behind overnight leader Sophie Eppelstun (St. Michael’s), the Girls Division at Camden quickly turned into a one-act affair as Lee dominated her rivals with a breathtaking finish.
Birdies were hard to come by on the front nine as the leading groups struggled on the lightning-fast greens, but once Lee got the pace right the tournament was over very quickly.
“I feel super great and pretty proud of myself on how I played over the past couple of days,” Lee said.
Birdies on the 8th and 9th opened up a two-shot lead before the Avondale 15-year-old put her foot down and streaked away from the field.
“My round today was pretty conservative, obviously I was kind of nervous on the front nine, but I tried to only think about what I had to do and keep my pace going steady, and I honestly had really good time on both of the courses and had lots of fun, which is probably the ideal play of golf.”
Four more birdies on the back nine made the final margin six shots as Lee signed for a five under par 69 with Michelle Bang (Concord) finishing in second place. Ann Jang (NSW) also finished the tournament in red figures, one shot further back, with young gun Camilla Kim (The Australian) taking home the Girls 13 Years & Under Division.
With Lee cruising to victory in the Girls Division, the Boys playing down at the road at Campbelltown were heading right down to the wire with several players in the mix by the afternoon.
Harry Atkinson (Pymble), Ryan Fletcher (Lynwood), Shashank Koirala (The Lakes) and Jamie Smith (Monash) all took turns at making a charge up the leader board, with the group of boys finishing in a four-way tie for fourth at two over par.
Wollongong’s Aksel Thomsen picked up a birdie on the final hole to jump out of that group and into solo-third, recording his best ever finish on the JNJG Tour.
“I’m feeling good. I had a bit of a rough start, a pretty scratchy front nine. But I grinded out on the back and had 31 so I’m pretty stoked,” he said.
“I never checked the leader board but my sister told me I dropped back to like 20th so to get back to third is a pretty good result.”
That left the leading duo to battle it out, with overnight leader Kayun Mudadana (NSW) and Wollongong young-gun Cascio (Bonnie Doon) breaking away from the chasing pack.
After trading birdies throughout the final round, the pair stood on the difficult 18th hole at Campbelltown, one of the best finishing holes in golf, locked together at two under par. Cascio, playing in the second-to-last group put the pressure on, with a clutch birdie on the final green to take a one-shot lead.
Mudadana, watching on from across the water, knew a birdie was now needed to force a playoff, hitting a fantastic approach that stopped just below the hole. The birdie try was right on the line, stopping agonisingly short and right in the heart, leaving Cascio victorious for the first time at JNJG Tour level.
“This win means everything. I’ve never won a JNJG event before and it feels good to win overall, not only in my age group,” he said.
“It feels heaps good to win in front of my family, especially my grandparents because they take me everywhere, to every tournament.”
Mudadana picked up the 16-17 Years Division as a consolation, with local boy Nathan Hong (Campbelltown) claiming Boys 13 Years & Under.
The shot of the tournament belonged to 11-year-old Sophia Chau (playing in the tournament on a special exemption), who aced the par three 14th hole at Campbelltown in the opening round.