A winning vacation for Piazza
The Canadian Junior Golf Association World Junior Challenge at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., serves two purposes for Nolan Piazza and his family.
“My whole family goes down there and we turn the tournament into a vacation,” the 16-year-old Niagara Falls native said.
After a previous-best 11th-place showing in 2018, Piazza fired rounds of 71, 75 and 70 to top the field of 68 golfers from several countries at this year’s event.
“I was hoping to win, but I obviously hadn’t played outside in a while,” the Cherry Hill member said. “I was hitting it well in my garage and that gave me some confidence.”
The Piazzas arrived in Florida Dec. 23 which gave Nolan four days to work out kinks in his game.
“It took until the second day to get where I was hitting it well again.”
Piazza took a one-shot lead into the final day of the 54-hole tournament and he held that same lead standing on the 18th tee. The scratch handicapper at Cherry Hill birdied the hole while runner-up Sean-Karl Dobson of Texas bogeyed to give Piazza a three-shot victory.
“I was very excited,” said the 2018 Ontario junior boys champion. “I was nervous the last five or six holes of the tournament and I was relieved afterwards because the boys I played with played really well.
“There was a lot of pressure all day not to make any mistakes and I felt that I managed it pretty well.”
Piazza ranks the CJGA title among his top three golfing accomplishments along with the Ontario junior title and qualifying for last summer’s U.S. Junior Amateur, where he missed the cut by two strokes.
“A win is a win but this is a close third,” he said, with a laugh. “I will take anything.”
The Florida triumph kick-starts an important year of golf for Piazza. He is hoping to land a golf scholarship in the United States and a strong season would help immensely.
“A scholarship is the next step towards becoming a pro and I have always wanted to be a professional golfer,” the Grade 11 student at A.N. Myer said. “All the best have gone to amazing colleges, although, I am not saying I have to go to a top 20 school or anything.
“I am just hoping to continue to progress and have a chance to play on the PGA tour.”
He is waiting until the various junior tours post their schedules before he figures out what his summer will entail.
The only other local in the CJGA tournament was Vineland’s Ben Kelly. He placed 66th with rounds of 91, 97 and 92.