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UVA golfer wins prestigious national juniors championship at Sawgrass, future Wahoo teammate finishes third

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Benjamin JamesA pair of 2022 commits to Virginia’s men’s golf program did the Cavaliers proud on Sunday when they finished 1-3 in the American Junior Golf Association Junior PLAYERS Championship at Sawgrass.

Benjamin James of Milford, Conn., stormed from behind to capture the prestigious tournament title by four shots at 8-under par 208. He defeated Alabama commit Nicholas Dunlap.

Bryan Lee, another UVA commit from Fairfax, tied for third with another ‘Bama commit, Jonathan Griz of Hilton Head, both finishing at 3-under 213.

James started the final round of the 54-hole event, two strokes behind Dunlap at 4-under 140. The two have battled it out all of 2021 as they’ve dominated the junior golf circuit, each claiming multiple major titles. In the most classic of those, until Sunday at Sawgrass, Dunlap edged James in a sudden death, 20-hole match at Liberty National in the Polo Golf Junior Classic.

Sunday’s championship match at the fabled Sawgrass course was also a classic performance by the future Cavalier. James put forth a phenomenal stretch on holes 9-12, going 5-under and leapfrogged into the lead. James, a two-time Rolex Junior All-American, reeled off three straight birdies on 9, 10 and 11, before reaching the short, par-4 12th with his drive, putting his tee shot to within three feet of the pin. James rolled in the eagle putt for a two-shot lead.

His back nine was almost flawless, with only a three-putt from 20 feet on No. 14, preventing an even larger advantage. James birdied the next hole and then parred his way into the clubhouse with a 4-under-par 68. The strong finish allowed him to tie the event’s lowest 54-hole title at TPC Sawgrass, which is THE PLAYERS Stadium Course.

“The last day I played a dream back nine,” James said. “The 3-wood on 12 to three feet, I couldn’t do that again if I tried and hit a million golf balls. It was a miracle shot.

“Winning this tournament is just awesome. I played really solid the first day, okay the second day. I was three or four back at one point, and to win by four just shows you how crazy golf is and how you’re always in it.”

James also won the Scott Robertson Memorial, the Team TaylorMade Invitational and the Northern Junior Championship. He is ranked No. 6 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.

Lee is No. 23 in those rankings. He finished tied for second at the Boys Junior PGA Championship and seventh at the Scott Robertson.

Virginia coach Bowen Sargent clearly has brought in a great recruiting Class of 2022, which should give the Cavaliers program a boost.

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