McDonald and Poston win at Trusted Choice Big 'I"

MADISON, Miss. – Ally McDonald of Fulton, Miss., ran away with the title in the Girls Division while J.T. Poston of Hickory, N.C., staved off his challengers all day to take home the Boys Division trophy Thursday at the 43rd annual Trusted Choice® Big “I” National Championship at Reunion Golf & Country Club in Madison, Miss.

After finishing second in the tournament last year, McDonald extended the eight-stroke lead she held after the third round to finish nine strokes ahead of Taylor Totland of Tinton Falls, N.J., (69-75-76-73—293). In McDonald’s last junior tournament, the entering freshman at Mississippi State carded a tournament score of 72-72-68-72—284 to take home the Mayerstein Trophy in her home state.

“I said that I wasn’t going to settle for second this year, and I think I got the job done,” she said. “I didn’t play as well as I could have today, but finishing 4-under-par and even on the day is a pretty good feat that I accomplished.”

Rounding out the top five in the Girls Division were Emily Haas of Nicholasville, Ken., at 10-over-par (75-76-71-76—298). Kelly Hartigan of Lake Orion, Mich., and Casey Ward of Chapel Hill, N.C., each finished at 12-over-par with four-day totals of 79-72-76-73—300 and 73-81-71-75—300, respectively.

While McDonald was snapping photos and shaking hands, the Boys Division was still up for grabs. Poston (72-69-70-71—282) entered No. 18 with a two-stroke lead, but left his approach shot 60-feet from the cup. Austin Smotherman of Loomis, Calif., (68-73-72-70—283), who has committed to play golf at UC Davis, stuck his approach to eight feet and knocked in his birdie attempt to get to 5-under-par for the tournament.

Poston, playing in his last junior event before joining the men’s golf team at Western Carolina University, needed to three-putt at worst to win the tournament, and that is just what he did. After his round he said the six-inch putt he dropped to lay claim to the Robert Trent Jones Trophy was one of the most nerve-racking of his junior golf career. He finished 6-under-par for the tournament.

“It was a grind all day,” Poston said. “On my par putt from six or seven feet I wasn’t going to run it by. I just had to two-putt from there, and I was glad I did have that six-incher instead of a three-footer.”

Trevor Cone of Concord, N.C., an entering freshman at Virginia Tech, took home the third place trophy with a four-day total of 3-under-par (73-68-71-73—285). Noah West of Belden, Miss., snuck up the leaderboard with a 3-under-par 69 Thursday to finish in fourth place at 1-under par (75-70-73-69—287) for the tournament, and Reed Lindsey of Ripley, Miss., (71-75-72-71—289) and Will Starke of Chapin, S.C., (73-71-74-71—289) tied for fifth place with a tournament totals of 1-over-par.

Renowned as the nation’s largest junior stroke-play golf tournament, the Trusted Choice® Big “I” National Championship is one of the longest running junior golf events in the country. This year’s field features top junior golfers from 36 states who advanced from qualifying tournaments held around the nation. Previous participants include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Kellee Booth and Grace Park.

ABOUT THE Big I National Championship

72-Hole Championship with a cut after 36 holes. Low 54 boys and 27 girls and all ties will make the cut.

Some 4,000 boys and girls attempt to qualify every year to participate in the 167 player field. The Trusted Choice Big "I" has qualifying opportunities in more than 44 states. If not exempt, you must attempt to qualify through your state of residence.

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