Gossett and Donaldson Prevail at Ocala
OCALA, FL - This weekend the 13-15 year-old division of the Florida Junior Tour traveled to a familiar location, Ocala Golf Club. Despite a chilly start to the first round on Saturday, the majority of the weekend provided the field with fantastic weather that the players were able to take advantage of in order to post low scores. A cluttered leaderboard in both divisions throughout the weekend proved the high quality of the field, but ultimately two champions were crowned, Luke Gossett and Ryan Donaldson.
Round one was headlined by the only three players in the field to post under-par rounds on Saturday. Luke Gossett, of Sorrento, began his round playing with great consistency as he finished his first nine holes at even-par with one bogey and one birdie. But once he made the turn, the Sorrento native flipped a switch and started to separate himself from the field. After carding back-to-back birdies on the par-five fourth and par-three fifth, Gossett would add another birdie on the par-four ninth to complete his final nine holes of the first round at three-under par, which was good enough to give him the 18-hole lead. Gossett was not alone at the top of the leaderboard as two players completed 18 holes at two-under par, just one shot back of the leader. Seunghwa Baek, of Davenport, excelled on Saturday thanks to four birdies, including back-to-back birdies on the par-five seventeenth and par-four eighteenth holes to close out his first nine holes of the round at two-under par. The Davenport native would complete the second half of his round at even-par to remain one shot back. Taeyoung Lim, of Davenport, began the day on a high note by birdieing the par-four tenth. The Davenport native would add two more birdies on the back nine, making the turn at two-under par, and ultimately finishing the round at two-under.
As the weather improved on Sunday, the consistency of the three leaders’ scores diminished. All three players who shot under-par on Saturday would make the turn at one-over par for the round as each player recorded multiple birdies and bogeys in those first nine holes. After all three players birdied the par-five thirteenth hole, Gossett still maintained just a one-shot lead over Lim. But from that point on, the eventual winner turned it on, playing his final five holes at three-under par, including an eagle on the par-four sixteenth. Gossett would finish the tournament with scores of 69-69—138 (-6) to earn his first FJT win by three shots. Baek also had a strong finish to the second round, ultimately recording scores of 70-71—141 (-3) en route to a second place finish. Lim [70-72—142 (-2)] finished in third.
Following the first 18 holes, the girls division was tightly contested as seven players found themselves either in the lead or within two shots of the lead. Miranda Lu, of Bradenton, was able to build a one-shot lead over four of her competitors with a score of three-over par 75. After completing the front-nine at three-over par and no birdies, the Bradenton native shot up to first place at the end of her round as she recorded back-to-back birdies on the sixteenth and seventeenth holes. Just one shot back of Lu was Ryan Donaldson, of McAlpin. The McAlpin native, who was leading for much of the first round, recorded a score of four-over par 76 on Saturday, highlighted by three birdies, including one on the difficult par-three fourteenth. Valentina Hurtado, of Weston, was also just one shot back of the leader, an impressive feat considering the Weston native began her round bogeying the first three holes.
Despite a packed leaderboard at the conclusion of the first round, four players would separate themselves from the field on Sunday. In addition to the three aforementioned players, Hannah Hall would join the fray to contend for the top spot. After beginning her round three shots back of the round-one leader, Hall (78-70—148) would record an impressive round of two-under par 70, one of just two under-par rounds for the girls throughout the tournament, to shoot all the way up to second place. The other under-par round belonged to Donaldson (76-69—145) on Sunday. The eventual winner carded six birdies on her way to her first victory of 2023. Donaldson proved her ability to overcome adversity as after bogeying two straight holes to begin her final nine holes of the round, the eventual winner would play the last seven holes at two-under par and bogey free. Lu (75-74—149) and Hurtado (76-73—149) finished in a tie for third.