Christian Garcia De La Jara’s face beamed with joy when he heard his name called as the overall winner of the Boys 14-15 division.
His first place finish at the Drive, Chip and Putt local qualifier at Neshanic Valley Golf Course on June 15, 2017, earned him his first subregional trip in his third attempt.
“This is my first time, but I have received ribbons before,” Garcia De La Jara said. “It feels great.”
The 13-year-old from Metuchen, N.J. started playing golf when he was five. The strongest part of his game, he says, is his putting. This year, Garcia De La Jara has increased his summer golf schedule in hopes to test his game. Neshanic Valley Golf Course’s local qualifier was his first stop.
“I’ve gotten really good at reading greens,” he said, scoring 65 of his 121 points in the putting competition.
Sixty-two competitors made the trip to Neshanic Station, N.J., in hopes to advance to the subregional, and hopefully, a trip to Augusta National Golf Club next April. The top three overall scorers in each age group in the local qualifier advanced to the subregional 50 miles south at The ACE Club in Lafayette Hill, Pa., on August 1.
One of those golfers was Janeyce McCray, who drove nearly an hour from her home in Union, N.J., after school with a new mindset. She qualified for the subregional at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in 2015, but failed to advance in local qualifying last year after a fourth place finish.
McCray got off to a hot start, scoring 25 in the driving competition. It boosted her confidence early on the way to a first place finish in the Girls 14-15 division.
“I’m excited to get back in it again,” McCray said.
McCray, 14, who started playing golf eight years ago, says her mom has helped maintain her love for the game.
“She started playing after I played since I was so into it,” McCray said. “When she plays, she just goes out there and has fun, and I think I should do that more since I’m so focused.”
Rohan Panjwani, who got his start in the game when he was six years old, had a perfect putting score of 75 in the Boys 12-13 age division. The Basking Ridge resident was the only competitor to make all three putts from six, 15, and 30 feet.
“Putting is my favorite,” Panjwani said. “I’m just more consistent.”