Trevor Ranton returns this week to defend his title in the 62nd International Junior Masters, which tees off today at East Aurora Country Club.
Ranton, 16, of Waterloo, Ont., highlights a field of 80 that features its usual international flavor. In addition to a heavy contingent of players from Canada, participants also come from Mexico, Scotland and Colombia.
“We’ve been looking for affiliations in other places, too,” said Jim Johnson, the tournament’s director of player development. “Through the website, we’ve gotten inquiries from places like the United Kingdom and Norway. So we’re always looking for more of those types of players.”
Ranton defeated Mexico’s Raul Pereda, 3 and 2, in the final match of the 2013 tournament. The 32nd and final seed to qualify for the championship flight, he had to survive a five-for-three spots playoff to gain entry, then defeated the No. 1 seed on his way through five match-play victories.
The last player to win back-to-back Junior Masters titles was PGA Tour veteran Briny Baird, in 1988 and ’89.
“It’s fantastic to have him back,” Johnson said. “A lot of times the champion turns ineligible. That’s not the case this year. He was one of the first players to commit to being here.”
Ranton comes into this week’s tournament 560th in the Golfweek Junior Boys Rankings, which include players from the United States and Canada. The highest-ranked player in the field is 17-year-old Spencer Dobbs of Whitby, Ont., at 376th. The vast majority of players are between 15 and 18 years old, but there are a few exceptions.
One of those is 13-year-old Will Thomson of Pittsford. The reigning New York State Boys Amateur (players under 14) champion, Thomson made history last year at the Junior Masters by being the first-ever 12-year-old to compete, then went on to make the championship flight. Thomson has been named the 14 and under Player of the Year by the International Junior Golf Tour.
“He’s phenomenal,” Johnson said. “The entire Rochester contingent is pretty strong this year.”
That includes 18-year-old Jack Gianniny, who earlier this month won the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship as a senior for Pittsford Sutherland. In all there are 15 players from the Rochester area and another 16 from in or around Buffalo.
Local players with a chance to contend include 17-year-old Kevin Borowicz (Grand Island), 18-year-old Adam Patronik (Orchard Park), 16-year-old David Hanes (Elma) and 16-year-old Gregory Sibick (Williamsville), who’s back for his second Junior Masters.
The last local winner was Orchard Park’s Jon Clark, in 2010.
Johnson spent time on the course in recent days with Scottish players Rory Franssen and Sam Locke, and said both have the ability to compete for a spot in the championship flight, as do the four Colombian players in the field (Simon Uribe, Felipe Ramirez, Ivan Camilo Ramirez and Diego Ovalle).
“These kids are all good,” Johnson said. “I think the field is getting much better and much tighter. You look at the resumes on some of these kids, and they play all over. Last year, to get into the top 32 you needed to shoot 154. A few years ago it was 157 or 159, so it’s getting tougher.”
Tournament play begins at 7 a.m. today with the first of two rounds of medal play. After that, the top 32 finishers will make up the championship flight, with the first round being held Wednesday afternoon. The second round and quarterfinals take place Thursday, before the semifinals and final Friday. Those outside the top 32 will be grouped in consolation flights.
Admission at EACC is free. Those interested can also follow the tournament on Twitter at @ijmgolf.
• Registration for the 2014 Erie County Amateur Championships closes at noon July 1. The tournament, which is in its third year, will be held July 5-6 at Grover Cleveland Golf Course. Last year, a field of nearly 60 men and women took part.
To be eligible, players must have a handicap of 8 or less for men and 20 or less for women. For the first time this season, real-time scoring will be available on the website of the Western New York section of the PGA. To register, visit www.westernnewyork.pga.com or call the section office at 626-7095 for more information.
• Registration for the 2014 New York State Junior and Boys Amateur Championships closes at 5 p.m. today. The entry fee is $50 and includes a practice round at Ridgemont Country Club in Greece prior to the tournament, which will be held Aug. 5-6.
To be eligible, players must be state residents or belong to a New York State Golf Association member club and meet the following age requirements: Junior Division for boys between 15 and 17 as of Aug. 6; Boys Division for players 14 and younger as of Aug. 6 and Girls Division for players 17 and younger as of Aug. 6. There is no qualifying for the Girls Division, so entry deadline is July 24.
For junior and boys players not yet exempt, a local qualifier will be held July 7 at Lockport Town and Country Club.
Contact the NYSGA at (315) 471-6979 or email Andrew @nysga.org for more information.
• The Western New York PGA will not have a qualifier for the 2014 PGA Championship. After the first two rounds of the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship being held at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club and Grand Dunes Resort Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Kirk Stauffer (Pine Acres CC), Alex Weir (Kahkwa Club), Eric Mabee (Oak Hill) and Steve Parker (Wanakah CC) all missed the cut. Weir and Parker were at 9-over 153; Stauffer and Mabee shot 10-over 154. The top 20 club professionals earn a berth in the season’s final major.
• Women’s Porter Cup champion Brooke Henderson, 16, finished as the low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open over the weekend, in a tie for 10th place overall. A 1-under 69 in the final round gave her a total of 5-over 285 for the tournament. Henderson is the second straight Porter Cup winner to then finish as low amateur at the Women’s U.S. Open, following Casie Cathrea in 2013.
• Local golf news of note is welcome at the email address below.
email: jskurski buffnews.com