DEARBORN – PJ Maybank III of Cheboygan said one of his goals for the summer was to repeat as Michigan Junior Amateur Champion.
He reached it, turning back Justin Sui of Lake Orion, 3 and 2, in the final match of the 43rd edition of the junior state championship at TPC Michigan Thursday.
“This is the biggest junior tournament in the state and I really wanted to defend,” said the 16-year-old Maybank. “I’ve always looked up to the people who won this tournament, since I was nine or 10-years-old. This is amazing.”
The tournament also crowned a champion in the 15-and-under age division. Max VanderMolen of Richland, who is 13, topped Connor Fox of Lake Orion 6 and 5 in the championship match.
Maybank, who was the stroke play medalist earlier in the week and the top seed in the overall division match play bracket, said he played super consistent.
“I was really solid, especially in stroke play where I played some of the best golf I’ve ever played,” he said. “Then in match play I was able to keep it going. I really played well all week.”
Maybank won the first two holes with a par and a birdie and never tailed in the final match with Sui. He closed things out winning 15 with a par and 16 with a birdie.
“Both of us didn’t have our best stuff, but Justin’s putter was cold and I won some holes because he missed putts he usually makes,” he said. “That was unfortunate. He’s such a great player.”
Maybank reached the final with a 3 and 2 morning semifinal win over Carter Housler of Lansing, and Sui reached the finals by topping Brockton English of Shelby Township 5 and 4.
Maybank said the key to the week was his putter.
“It was really solid, I putted well all week,” he said. “Last winter I practiced putting more than anything else and it is really paying off this summer. I also got a few breaks this week. It was just my week. I had to grind a lot more last year to win. My putter carried me through this week.”
VanderMolen reached the 15-and-under final with a 3 and 2 win over Julian Menser of South Lyon in the semifinals, while Fox shot a 5-under 31 on the front nine in topping Cooper Reitsma of Ada 4 and 3 in the other semifinal.
VanderMolen was five-up through nine holes in the final, including two holes won with birdies, as Fox struggled with his game. VanderMolen said his ball-striking was the key.
“It’s always been the best part of my game and I just turned it on this week,” he said. “I hit a lot of fairways and greens. I shot 5-under in my first match and I just kept hitting good shots.”
He turned back Vibhav Alokam of Ypsilanti 3 and 1 in the round of eight and called it the key match.
“He beat me in the (finals) of the (GAM 14-and-under Match Play Championship) just a week ago, so to get past him was big for me. That’s when I thought I could win the tournament.”