Sports

Defending junior boys champ also does well at Grand Niagara

By Bernd Franke, Postmedia News

Cameron Kiemele competes in the Niagara District Junior Golf Tour stop Monday at Grand Niagara in Niagara Falls. JULIE JOCSAK/Postmedia News

Cameron Kiemele competes in the Niagara District Junior Golf Tour stop Monday at Grand Niagara in Niagara Falls. JULIE JOCSAK/Postmedia News

Ethan Bennett had good reason to feel optimistic heading into the Niagara District Junior Golf Tour’s annual stop at Grand Niagara.

 

He won last year’s tour stop by five strokes, and has generally always fared well on the fairways – not to mention, the tees and greens – at the par-72 course in Niagara Falls.

Monday was no exception for the defending under-17/under-19 boys champion. Identical nines of 36, for a round of 72, shot Bennett to the top of leaderboard for a three-stroke victory over Rein Zinka.

“I really like the golf course, it sets up good for me,” Bennett, 17, of Stoney Creek said. “All the driving holes set up good for my shot shape, I didn’t miss many fareways today.”

“I have a lot of mid to short irons, and those are king of my bread and butter.”

Bennett, who finished third in the tour opener at Rockway Vineyards and miss last week’s stop of Rolling Meadows competing at the Ontario Men’s Amateur Championships in Windsor, benefitted from having a lot of close shots, many of them within 10 feet.

While the graduate of Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton didn’t have a putting game worth raving about at the third stop on this summer’s tour, proximity to the hole more than made up for shortcomings in his short game Monday.

“My putting was kind of unimportant compared to the rest of my game.”

Next month Bennett will begin attending Gannon University, a Division II school in Erie, Pa., on a golf scholarship. He intends to major in education with the hopes of a career teaching English or history.

Bennett, the tour’s juvenile champion in 2015 and overall boys champion last year, attributes his success in the sport to consistency.

“I hit a lot of fareways, hit quite a few greens,” he said. “My putting’s always a little sketchy from time to time, but my consistency in ball striking is usually pretty solid.”

Zenka, the winner of the Rolling Meadows tour stop, finished two strokes ahead of Ben Simmonds, who carded a 77. R.J. Derhodge, 78; and Peyton Enns, 79; rounded out the top five.

Nolan Piazza, 35-38=73; Ben MacLean, 36-38=74; Luke Delgobbo, 38-40=78; Blake McGowan, 39-41=80; and Bradyn Wark, 42-39=81; were the top five in the boys under-15 flight.

Top finishers among boys 13 and younger: 1. Sammy Rootes, 42-43=85; 2. Isaiah Ellis, 41-46=87; 3. Anthony Sartor, 42-53=95; 4. John Kingdon, 53-51=104; Michael Martel, 50-54=104; 6. Hudson Mieklo, 49-58=107.

Victory suits Taylor

A two-stroke victory on the Niagara District Junior Golf Tour Monday at Grand Niagara was either a belated graduation gift or an early housewarming present for Taylor Simoneau.

Take your pick.

Simoneau is just glad she picked exactly the right clubs to earn her first-ever victory after four-plus years competing on the tour.

“I hit it really well. I had a couple of rough holes, but I managed to bounce back a lot and make birdies,” the 17-year-old Governor Simcoe Secondary School graduate from St. Catharines said.

“I was hitting my wedges really well, my putts were going in, so I had a good day.”

Success for Simoneau is determined by how well her short game is going.

“When that’s on, usually I’m pretty good,” she said. “I feel my irons have always been solid, so when I get the putts to go in, and I can get up and down when I miss greens, I feel that’s when I’m at my best.”

Simoneau, who will be studying psychology and sports marketing at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., on a golf scholarship, was glad to refer to her tour victory drought in the past tense.

“It feels so good. I’ve been working hard for a really long time,” she said. “To see it pay off is really good.”

“I was at a couple of bigger tournaments the last couple of weeks and I played well there, too, so I knew I was building up to something.”

Finishing behind Simoneau, 40-38=78; at Grand Niagara were Kayla Burke, 39-41=80; Susan Leone, 41-44=85; Payton Bennett, 45-43=88; and Sasha Baker, 39-50=89.

Next tour stop is Friday at Willodell, also in Niagara Falls, with action shifting to Twenty Valley Golf & Country Club in Vineland on Monday.

bfranke@postmedia.com

 



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