Alena Li of Okemos Wins GAM Girls’ Championship

YPSILANTI – Alena Li of Okemos picked up where she left off in 2023.

Last year’s GAM Girls’ Junior Player of the Year opened 2024 with a win in the GAM Girls’ Championship Sunday at Washtenaw Golf Club.

Li, 16, shot a 1-over 73 in a wind-whipped final round for a 3-over two-day total of 147 and won by nine shots.

Mia Melendez of Ann Arbor shot 79 for 156 and second place, and Jessica Jolly of Rockford closed with a 78 for 158 and third place.

A field of 69 golfers played in the new championship, which replaced the former GAM Junior Kickoff tournament of recent years. The first GAM Boys’ Championship will be played in August, also at Washtenaw.

A champion was also determined Sunday in the 15-and-under age group with some similar circumstances.

Saisha Patil of Okemos, the GAM 15-and-under Girls’ Junior Player of the Year in 2023, started 2024 as a winner.

Patil, 13, shot a final-round 76 for 154, just one shot ahead of Esther Zhang of Ann Arbor, who closed with a 76 for 155. Anika Srivastava of Okemos was third with an 81 for 157.

Li said work on her game over the winter showed well in the first tournament of the new season.

“I worked on trying to swing faster to get more distance with my driver, and I worked on my putting stroke a little bit to have better rhythm with my stroke,” she said. “I feel like I’m hitting it farther this year and I just tried to stay consistent, hit fairways and greens and try not to make any big mistakes by having a consistent focus.”

Li works with teaching professionals Jason Guss, a former Michigan PGA professional now living and working in Illinois, and Lansing area professional Chris Mory. She said starting the season with a win felt great. She had just one win a year ago while earning her Player of the Year points with several high finishes.

“I feel like it’s a really big win because I played well and I felt more confidence, which is good,” she said. “I definitely want to keep getting better and playing as well as I can, but I’d like to win a few things, too. This is a good start.”

Patil, who won three 15-and-under tournaments a year ago at age 12, said she was pleased to play well in the tough weather.

“It was so cold, and the greens were really fast, so it was just difficult to adjust to,” she said.

Patil said she worked on her chipping over the winter and she feels like it is starting to pay off.

“I made progress,” she said. “Winning this will help me have more confidence and hopefully help me start shooting under-par rounds.”

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