Ben James wins 3rd straight New England Junior Amateur

Ben James, 16, from Milford, Connecticut, fired a second straight 5-under-par 66 on August 17 to claim his third consecutive New England Junior individual championship, this one held at Val Halla Golf Club in Maine.

HARTFORD, Conn. – Ben James continues to add to the contention that he’s the best junior player in the history of Connecticut golf.

James closed with two 5-under-par 66s to win a record third consecutive New England Junior Amateur Championship at Val Halla Golf Club in Cumberland, Maine. His 54-hole total of 14-under 199 was five strokes better than Colin Spencer of Mashpee, Mass.

“The achievement (winning three in a row) means so much to me,” said James, the standout from Milford who is a senior at Hamden Hall Country Day. “This event, it’s my fourth time being here and I love our coach [Connecticut State Golf Association) executive director Mike Moraghan]. We’re really good friends. and with all of my friends just being here too it means a lot to win this event.

“You don’t get to play many team golf matches, and it’s awesome. You’re with your friends, and it’s a great golf course and good competition.”

James, the sixth-ranked player in the American Junior Golf Association Boys Rankings, recorded 17 birdies, an eagle and only six bogeys in his historic win over Colin Spencer of Mashpee, Mass.

“It’s been a battle every year with me and the other competitors,” James said. “It’s just been awesome to kind of get it all together three consecutive times. I’ve played pretty well in all of them, and I’m just happy to win my last one.”

James, 18, will be signing a national letter of intent in November to the University of Virginia, where Moraghan was the men’s golf coach for 20 years.

Beyond the golf, James enjoyed the camaraderie of the event and spending time with his teammates on and off the course.

“It was awesome,” James said. “We did our best with the COVID restrictions. We just had a lot of fun at the pool and we enjoyed ourselves. It was nice to spend some time with the girls too going out to get some ice cream. It was really fun.”

Each state brings seven boys and three girls to the championship, which began in 1967, with girls joining the event two years ago. The boys count their five best scores, and three girls’ scores all count toward their team total.

Connecticut finished second at plus-10, 15 strokes behind Massachusetts, which denied the Nutmeg team a third consecutive title. Matt Doyle of Madison tied for fourth at 210, two better than Connor Goode of Glastonbury. Jackson Roman of Fairfield tied for 13th at 224, three ahead of Will Lodge of Darien. Kyle St. Pierre of Shelton tied for 38th at 245.

The Connecticut girls’ team finished fifth at plus-62. Kate Kong of Old Greenwich was the state’s leader, tying for 10th at 242. Charlotte Wagner of Fairfield finished 11th at 243, and Leslie Li of West Hartford was 15th at 256. Annie Dai and MacKenzie Whitney, both of Massachusetts, shared the girls’ title at 230.

James was coming off a victory in the Northern Junior and second to pro Peter Ballo in the Connecticut Open. He earlier won two national tournaments, tied for second in the PGA of America Junior Boys Championship and lost on the second playoff hole in the final of the American Junior Golf Association Polo Match Play Championship to Nick Dunlap of Huntsville, Ala., who won the U.S. Junior Amateur. James has qualified for the Junior Ryder Cup Team that will compete before the Ryder Cup between the United States and Europe on Sept. 24-26 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc., after being on the victorious Junior Presidents Cup Team in 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.

Worked as sports writer for The Hartford Courant for 38 years before retiring in 2008. His major beats at the paper were golf, the Hartford Whalers, University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball, Yale football, United States and World Figure Skating Championships and ski columnist. He has covered every PGA Tour stop in Connecticut since 1971, along with 30 Masters, 25 U.S. Opens, four PGA Championships, 12 Deutsche Bank Championships, 15 Westchester (N.Y.) Classics and four Ryder Cups. He has won several Golf Writers Association of America writing awards, including a first place for a feature on John Daly, and was elected to the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 2009. He also worked for the Connecticut Whale hockey team for two years when they were renamed by former Hartford Whalers managing general partner Howard Baldwin, who had become the marketing director of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the top affiliate of the New York Rangers.

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