Junior Golf

Rueland and Castle win at the Orange Jacket

Zach Rueland won a playoff to claim the 2017 Orange Jacket boys championship.

The 10th annual Harvey Brock Memorial Orange Jacket Classic is the unofficial start to the junior golf season in South Carolina. It is the first significant tournament after young golfers return to school.

The Orange Jacket has become a stepping stone to future college careers and national success especially on the boys side of the competition.

The very first winner, Corbin Mills played college golf at Clemson and went on to win the USGA Public Links championship.

Tournament champions have won four SCGA amateur championships, a pair of Carolina Amateur titles  and an SEC individual championship.

Last year’s winner, Jacob Bridgeman of Inman, could not defend his title because he is one of the juniors playing in the Junior President’s Cup.

Usually the overall champion comes from the older players group, but this year Zach Rueland of Rock Hill fired a first round 5-under par 67 to lead the overall boys tournament after the first round.

Daniel Azallion won the boys 16-18 division title.

Playing in windy conditions Rueland had to adjust his game to  work through the local effects of the Florida hurricane.

“I worked on hitting the ball low to keep it out of the wind,” he said. “I also made some good putts,” added the Rock Hill High School golfer.

Rueland shot a second round 1-under par 71 to win the 13-15 year old boys division and also tie for the overall tournament title.

The boys 16-18 year old division was won by Daniel Azallion of Hilton Head. The winner of the Jimmy Self Junior last spring shot rounds of 68 and 70 to finish tied with Rueland for the overall title forcing a playoff.

For the second year in a row the boys title was decided on the first playoff hole. Rueland made a 12 foot par putt on the extra hole to earn the Orange Jacket.

Rueland had been in one playoff before and lost, but that experience helped him win this playoff at Pickens.

“I was able to stay calm and hit good shots. It feels good to get the win,” said the 15 year old golfer.

Zach Rueland is only the second 13-15 year old division player to win the overall title.

Rueland is the second younger golfer to win the overall title. Former USC golfer and now Tour player Matt NeSmith also won his Orange Jacket title coming from the 13-15 year old division.

The girls division almost needed a playoff to decide their championship.

First round co-leader Jensen Castle of West Columbia started the final round tied with Emily Dunlap of Mauldin.

Both golfers carded rounds of 2-under par 70 to open the tournament, but in the second round Castle thought she had lost the lead.

Jensen Castle survived a three-putt final green to win the girls overall title.

“I made a bunch of bogeys on the front nine and Emily was really playing well,” she said. “I thought I was behind, but I didn’t know for sure,” she added.

Castle, who won the Cobb’s Glen Junior last spring, got on track with a pair of birdies on number nine and ten, but still felt she needed to pick up more shots to get back to the lead.

On the final hole Castle struggled to get the ball in the hole. She recorded a 2 over par 7 on the par 5 hole.

“I flat out three-jacked the green,” she said. “When I walked off the green I was certain I had lost especially with the way I played the last hole,” she said.

Instead when the scores were posted Castle had won the division and overall championship by one shot over Dunlap.

“I wasn’t keeping Emily’s card so I really didn’t know. I was disappointed with the way I played so when I found out I had won I was amazed,” she said.

Castle (center) won girls Orange Jacket with Emily Dunlap (right) finishing second and Elle Johnson (left) finishing third.

The high school junior at White Knoll was the state AAAAA individual championship last year.

Her final round 73 gave her a two-day total of 143 and a one shot victory over Dunlap.

Elle Johnson from Spartanburg was third while Katie Whitfield of Clemson was fourth in the older girls division.

Other champions at the Orange Jacket included, Girls (10-12) Mattie Padgett, Boys (10-12) William Jennings, Girls (13-15) Kennedy McGaha.

Kennedy McGaha (right) won the girls 13-15 year old division title. Mary Katheryn Talledo (center) was second and Carlee Vardas (left) was third.

The tournament is held each year as a memorial to long time area professional Harvey Brock. Brock was instrumental in developing young golfers during his long and outstanding professional career.

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