Midlands standout riding momentum of junior golf success

Jensen Castle
Jensen Castle

From the start, the day that golf changed from a tag-along-with-dad outing to a game to play seriously, Jensen Castle took aim at succeeding at the highest level.

“I’m super competitive,” she said in explaining her desire to excel.

Excel she has, forging a set of credentials that earned her the top spot in the state rankings, a berth in the top 10 among American Junior Golf Association competitors and a scholarship to the University of Kentucky.

Last week, she brought home her biggest achievement so far — a runner-up finish in the PGA’s national Girls’ Junior Championship in Hartford, Connecticut.

This week, she aims higher — in the USGA’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

“I have been playing really well for the past year,” said Castle, a Gray Collegiate graduate who lives in West Columbia. “I’m really excited about (the U.S. Girls’ Junior). It’s a great tournament with a lot of great players, and I’m looking forward to it.”

She won the PGA stroke-play tournament with a four-round total of 12-under-par 268. The USGA event calls for two rounds of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday with the low 64 payers advancing to match play.

“With either format, you just have to play well,” she said.

Castle’s formula for playing well includes preparation, competitiveness and having fun, and that’s her plan this week and beyond. The prize at the end of the tunnel is a berth on the LPGA Tour.

“I’m excited about what’s ahead,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’m working all the time on improving.”

She gauges that wedges and putting — the scoring clubs — are the best part of her game, and she works to keep it that way. “I might focus on one thing in a practice session,” she said. “There are some days I might not hit a driver at all.”

Earning berths in the national tournaments convinced Castle she could compete beyond the state and regional level. She has played in two PGA Girls’ Junior events, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and the Big I. This will be her second U.S. Girls’ Junior.

“Obviously, the competition gets better with each step, and you really have to want to play well and work on your game,” she said.

Making the cut at the 2018 PGA Girls’ Junior provided a dose of confidence. Then she finished sixth in the Big I, another national event, and she began 2019 with a second in the AJGA’s Annika Invitational and a third in an international field in the Dustin Johnson championship.

Placing second at last week’s PGA Girls’ Junior “is the best so far,” she said, and she heads to Wisconsin brimming with confidence.

Her history of consistent improvement suggests that even better performances are in her future, starting perhaps this week.

Chip shots. Bronson Myers, a Hammond graduate who will play college golf at Elon, won two matches before falling in the Round of 16 in the U.S. Junior Amateur in Toldeo, Ohio. ... Jack Parrott (Columbia/USC) led the South Carolina contingent in the Carolinas Amateur with a fourth-place finish. Walker Jones (Sumter/Wofford) tied for fifth, Jake Carter (Aiken/Florida State) shared seventh and Jamie Wilson (Mt. Pleasant/USC) finished 10th in the tourney in Chapel Hill, N.C. ... Carter will be among the favorites in this week’s Palmetto Amateur in Aiken. ... RJ Keur (Summerville), 2017 SCGA Player of the Year, and Andrew Orischak (Hilton Head Island/Virginia) advanced to the U.S. Amateur in qualifying at Colleton River Plantation’s Dye Course in Bluffton. Nick Dunlap (Greer), a 15-year-old high schooler, earned a berth in qualifying in Chapel Hill, N.C. ... Mason Tucker (Lancaster) won the boys’ title and Phoebe Carles (Clinton) captured the girls’ championship in the CGA’s South Carolina Junior Match-Play tourney in Moncks Corner. ... Tucker made it two titles in a week by winning the boys’ division in the rain-shortened Blade Junior in Greenville. Abigail Schimpf (Daniel Island) led the girls.