Beaufort News

Skinner, Connelly win AJGA Junior All-Star with playoffs

The 4- and 5-foot putts were driving Bella Skinner crazy all day. With each one she missed from that range Thursday, the 15-year-old from Cumming, Ga., watched what began as a six-shot lead shrink.

So, naturally, Skinner found herself standing over a 4-footer on the 54th hole, needing it to drop to get into a playoff.

She buried it, then made another from the same range for a par on the first playoff hole to outlast Laura Sojo of Colombia and win the girls title at the AJGA Junior All-Star at Hilton Head on Berkeley Hall Club's South Course.

"The fact that I made those two means more than making any birdie putts the whole day," Skinner said. "That was huge."

The boys division also went to a playoff, with 36-hole leader Austin Connelly making a 15-foot birdie putt to beat Matthew Plunkett.

Skinner slept on a lead for the first time in her career -- and it was a big one. But she was hardly able to coast through the final round, because Sojo was steady all day. Skinner's putter failed her early, leading to a 5-over 41 on the front nine, and Sojo took the lead with a birdie on the par-5 17th hole.

By then, though, Skinner had made nine consecutive pars and calmed the nerves that bothered her early in the round.

"I told myself that I just needed to play my game and I couldn't think about winning anymore," Skinner said. "At that point, I just told myself to just play, to keep fighting it out, because you never know what's going to happen."

What happened was Sojo's booming tee shot at No. 18 slid through the fairway and left her with a protruding tree limb blocking her path to the green. Her approach went well over the green and left her among some bushes, forcing her to punch out, and her third shot ran off the front of the green, leading to a double-bogey 6.

Meanwhile, Skinner's second shot wound up in the greenside bunker, and she needed two shots to find the green, but she dropped her 4-foot bogey putt to force the playoff and won on the first playoff hole when Sojo made a three-putt bogey.

"It would've been nice to make it a little easier on myself, but it was fun today experiencing everything I did and ending up with a good result," Skinner said.

The 18th hole held plenty of drama for the boys, too. Plunkett made a birdie there to pull into a tie with Connelly, who put a bit too much pace on his birdie putt to win in regulation.

But Connelly didn't waste his second chance. The Las Colinas, Texas, resident rolled his approach within inches of the cup before it came to rest about 15 feet above the hole. Plunkett's birdie try was on the same line from about 18 feet, and when it broke hard to the right, Connelly knew he had the line.

"I had just seen his putt," Connelly said. "I knew exactly what it was doing. I just needed to hit it."

AJGA Junior All-Star at Hilton Head

Thursday, at Berkeley Hall Club (South Course), Bluffton; Par: Boys: 36-36--72; Girls: 36-36--72; Yardage: Boys: 6,718; Girls: 5,885

(*won on first playoff hole)

Final Round


  • Top finishers
  • *Austin Connelly 71-69-72--212

    Matthew Plunkett 71-71-70--212

    David Mackey 70-72-72--214

    Austen Truslow 74-69-71--214

    Pablo Andres Torres 67-74-74--215

    Remec Carlson 71-75-70--216

    Luis Enriquez 70-75-71--216

    Osama Khan 72-73-72--217

    Jack Comstock 71-76-70--217

    Philip Barbaree 72-71-74--217

    Dong-Jun Kim 77-65-75--217

    Local players

    Bryson Nimmer 71-78-76--225

    Saravit Kerdsinchai 77-78-72--227

    Will Miles 84-82-77--243


    Top finishers

    *Isabella Skinner 71-71-78--220

    Laura Sojo 72-76-72--220

    Kelly Whaley 73-78-73--224

    Lauren Stephenson 76-74-74--224

    Tiffany Kuroki 77-75-76--228

    Ailin Li 76-78-76--230

    Samantha Spencer 81-74-75--230

    Lauren Johnson 79-78-78--235

    Angella Then 80-78-77--235

    Radi Sauro 80-78-77--235

    Sara Diaz 72-81-82--235