Back-to-back wins for Derhodge, Bennett
Payton Bennett has taken her golf game to a whole new level.
After winning once in her first four seasons on the Niagara Junior Golf Tour, the Twenty Valley member has won the opening two events on this year’s circuit. Her latest victory came at her home course Tuesday. The Grade 11 student at Cardinal Newman carded an 81 to record a seven-shot victory over runner-up Emily White.
“I drove the ball fantastic, I hit my irons well and I didn’t chip and putt great but since I was hitting my driver so well I didn’t need to be hitting them that great.”
The 16-year-old has gone from good to great on the local junior golf tour by focusing all her attention on the sport.
“It is a lot of practice,” she said. “I have been practising a ton.”
Her motivation has come from her older brother Ethan.
“He got a golf scholarship and I would also like to get a golf scholarship so I want to work hard and be like him.”
It was a decision she thought about for awhile.
“I’ve always had it in my head but I just recently stopped playing competitive hockey so I have time now to put the effort in.”
She had been playing with the Burlington Barracudas AA program for the past eight years.
“It was tough to quit, but now it’s good to see it kind of paying off.”
Payton didn’t have much time to stick around for interviews Tuesday because she was heading up to Collingwood to watch Ethan compete in the Ontario Men’s Amateur Championship. Ethan, who has signed with Gannon, has been a big influence on Payton’s golf career.
“My parents didn’t play competitive golf and he has taught me everything I know about the whole game,” she said.
REPEAT FOR R.J.
Like girls winner Payton Bennett, R.J. Derhodge also went back to back at the first two stops on the Niagara Junior Golf Tour.
The Grand Niagara member carded a nice 71 at Twenty Valley to record a four-shot victory over second-place finisher, Matthew Martel.
The 18-year-old Niagara Falls native won five tournaments last year to capture the overall points title and is aiming even higher in 2019.
“I want to see if I can win them all,” the Saint Michael’s graduate said. “That would be really cool if I could do that and I am playing really solid right now.”
That solid play continued Tuesday for the 0.4 handicapper.
“I drove the ball extremely far so I was having a lot of short shots in,” he said. “That led to short putts and I was making some putts out there for birdie.”
“It was a couple of birdies and lots of pars.”
As defending champion, Derhodge is focused on his own game and isn’t playing attention to how others are doing.
“I am fighting my own battle out there and focusing on what I have to do,” he said.
His goals for the season, other than to win everything on the local tour, are to try and consistently shoot under par.
“Before it was hard for me to shoot under par but now I am doing it more,” Derhodge said. “To keep doing that, it makes it a standard.”
He attributes his improved scoring to his putting and short game.
“I am making a lot more shots around the greens,” he said. “It was lots of practice every day. I don’t have a day job and I just go out and practice all day.”
His parents, Rick and Roxanne, have allowed him to do just that.
“They have given me everything to allow me to play golf to the best of my abilities.”
Next stop on the tour is July 19 at Willodell Golf Club of Niagara.
Following are the leaders from the Niagara Junior Golf Tour event Tuesday at Twenty Valley.
Under-19 girls: Payton Bennett 81; Emily White 88; Sasha Baker 91; Mya Mackey 95; Casey Kenney 95; Mikayla Lacey 97; Jade Gracie 108; Alexis Alderson 112; Kate Jeffery 119.
Under 17/19 boys: R.J. Derhodge 71; Matthew Martel 75; Ethan Siebert 77; Andrew Scott 78; Damian Stehling 79; Blake Pingue 80; Jared Sloan 84; Jordyn Rowling 85; Aidan Lopinski 86; Charlie Jeffries 86.
Under-15 boys: Isaih Ellis 75; Sammy Rootes 76; Nathan Freure 79; John Kingdon 81; Hudson Mielko 86.
Under-13 boys: Michael Martel 81; Will Burleigh 85; Levi Moyer 99; Elliott Christopher 104
Under-11 boys: Lucas Sartor 110; Trent Clarke 112.