On a day where temperatures reached as high as 98 degrees, youth golfers took to the Blue Hills Country Club golf course to play the championship round of the American Junior Golf Association’s Lockton Kansas City Junior tournament.
With several college coaches in the gallery, a plethora of young golfers posted low scores, including girls’ champion Reese Guzman, who shot a 1-under 71, and boys’ champion, Kansas State verbal commit Ryan Bender, who finished with a 3-under 69.
Guzman, a junior at Maui (Hawaii) High School, has not been home since the beginning of June, and she will not return to the islands until the middle of August. Instead, she has made hotel rooms and golf courses across the mainland her home for the summer, and on Thursday, she won the Lockton Kansas City Junior in dramatic fashion.
Trailing by one stroke to Thailand’s Kornkamol Sukaree entering the 17th hole, Guzman chipped in for birdie to force an eventual playoff.
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“If I am being honest, throughout the day, I was just thinking about how hot it was,” Guzman said. “I was not thinking about winning, but I was just focusing on my own game and trying to do what I do best.”
Guzman and Sukaree each made par on the first playoff hole, but on the second hole, Guzman placed a perfect second shot just five yards away from the pin, setting herself up for victory. She two-putted for a par and won her third AJGA Championship.
“I am pretty happy with how I played today,” Guzman said. “I will definitely remember this tournament more because of that playoff.”
Guzman finished the tournament with rounds of 70-76-69 for a 1-under 215. Guzman departs from Kansas City on Friday afternoon and will head to Oklahoma, then to Branson before heading to California for her last tournament of the summer.
On the boys’ side, there was no dramatic finish or theatrics. Bender, who has been playing in AJGA tournaments for two years now, led wire to wire and won his first AJGA championship.
“This win means so much to me,” Bender said. “It’s amazing, and I could not have asked for a better situation and place to win it at. This is a dream come true, and it’s unbelievable.”
An Overland Park, Kan. native who attends Blue Valley North High School, Bender finished the Lockton Kansas City Junior with rounds of 70-72-69 for a 5-under 211. In the championship round, Bender did something he’s never done before: Play bogey-free golf.
“It’s amazing. … And I’ve never done that before, and to do it on this really hard golf course, it’s unbelievable even to me,” Bender said. “It was just fantastic.”