New York Junior Amateur: Dean and Levitt claim 18U titles
Kellen Dean and Jordan Levitt (New York State Golf Association Photo)
Kellen Dean and Jordan Levitt (New York State Golf Association Photo)

Kellen Dean of McGregor Links CC was able to hold off a surging field in the final round to claim the 81st New York State Boys’ 18U Junior Amateur Championship.

Dean sank a clutch birdie putt on the 18th hole of the final round at Lake Placid Club’s Links Course to secure the two-stroke victory.

After a tournament-low 66 during the second round on Thursday to take the outright lead, Dean knew what he had to do going into Friday’s final round. The 17-year-old started out slow with two bogeys on Nos. 1 and 2 but responded quickly with birdies on the next two holes to get back to even on the day and regain control.

Dean continued his solid play down the stretch, but standing next to him, tied for the lead on the 17th and 18th tee, was Tyler Berkman of Potsdam Town & CC, who started the day three strokes behind the leader.

Dean pulled his tee shot into the left rough while Berkman was able to find the fairway. Berkman was first to go as he found the rough just over the green, and well above the front hole location, setting him up for a very difficult shot. Dean hit his second shot pin-high to about 15 feet with a great look for birdie.

Berkman was unable to get up and down, leaving Dean with two putts to win, but Dean only needed one. He sank the 15-foot birdie to capture his first state title.

“It was definitely a relief. The back nine was a grind, and I’m just so thankful for it, and I’m glad I got through it.” Dean said after reflecting on his win at Lake Placid.

With this victory, Dean will join a group of 59 other names inscribed on the Hickock Cup that dates back to the inaugural championship in 1931.

“This is definitely the best by far, not even close,” said Kellen on where this title would rank for him. “This is such a great event, and it is one I always want to win, and I’m just so thankful to win it.”

With Berkman finishing at 3-under, he put himself in a tie for second place with Dean Muratore of MET PGA Junior Golf Club, who had a putt for birdie on No. 18 to put some pressure on Dean, but came up short. He finished his week with two rounds under par.

To round out the top five, in solo fourth place was YiWen Wang of Saxon Woods GC, who was 1-under over the three days, and Leo Chu of Hudson Hills GC, who was solo fifth at even par for his three rounds.

The top-5 finishers earned themselves an exemption into this year’s 100th New York State Men’s Amateur Championship scheduled for August 7-9 at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle.

Bedford’s own Jordan Levitt claimed the 60th New York State Girls’ Junior Amateur title by three strokes at Lake Placid Club.

She impressively marched her way to victory around the sloped layout and posted a 6-under 65 in her final round.

The 16-year-old, who played well during her first round for a 1-under 70 and early lead, felt confident she could give the Betty Deely Cup a run this week.

“This is probably the biggest moment in my golf career yet,” said Levitt about winning the junior title.

She teed off early this morning in the final pairing alongside second-round leader Nina Choe of Pelham Country Club and 2022 champion Sophia Li of New York City.

Levitt was able to separate herself early from the other competitors with two birdies through three holes including a chip-in on No. 2, but with a chip-in eagle response from Li on No. 10, it was coming down to the wire between two impressive young players from the Metropolitan area.

Levitt had a one stroke advantage over Li heading to the 15th, a blind tee shot to a short downhill par 3. Li lagged her birdie try up to several feet. Levitt then stepped up to her ball on the green and sank an unbelievable 40-foot putt. Li then missed her par putt for a two-shot swing between the competitors, which was ultimately the end of the duel.

“I don’t even know how long that putt was!” said Levitt about her amazing putt. “I had to play it out almost 12 feet out on the right side to break all the way back down and around. I think at that moment I was just like ‘Oh my god, this is awesome!’”

After the 15th, it was a steady course for Levitt as she went on to win her first New York State title.

“It's hard to put into words,” said Levitt after her career low round of 65. “I kept it consistent in my game. We talked the other day, ‘What’s your gameplan?’, I’m just going to do what I normally do. Big thing today was being patient and taking my opportunities.”

Sophia Li, being last year’s winner and this year’s runner-up, took her finish with dignity and celebrated with her close friend.

“Sophia and I are great friends,” said Levitt about playing her last two rounds with Li. “It does get heated sometimes on the golf course to say the least, but we both love each other.”

Finishing in solo third was Amelie Phung, older sister to the 14U Girls’ Champ Alexandra Phung, and finished at even par for her three days at a total score of 213.

The top five also included second-round leader Nine Choe of Pelham Country Club, who could not find a groove on the course as she finished 3-over for the tournament in fourth place. In fifth was Amanda Philips of New York City who was able to shoot under par for her final round and finish at 8-over.

Daniella Elizabeth Sutor of Met PGA Junior GC finished in sixth at 223. 2023 NYS Women’s Am champion Lily Zhang of Park CC and 2021 NYS Girls’ Junior champion Julia Zigrossi of Ridgemont CC finished tied for 7th at 224.

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