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Palm Beach Post: Junior Honda Classic Recap

Local youths take first place in 16-18 divisions at Junior Honda

09 January, 2017

PALM BEACH GARDENS - The 10th Annual Junior Honda Classic was played Sunday in un-Florida like weather conditions at the PGA National Resort & Spa’s Fazio and Champion courses.

However, the 20 mph winds and temperatures barely nudging the 60-degree mark didn’t deter those who made the cut from among 250 youngsters representing 22 countries and 17 states.

Lake Worth’s Alexa Pano, competing in the Girls’ 16-18 division, shot a 1-over 73 for a four-stroke victory over Sarah-Eve Rheaume from Quebec. Pano, who is 12 and ranked No. 52 in the country among junior girls, competed against the older girls.

The top Boys’ flight was a cliffhanger that ended in a tie after 18 holes. Boca Raton’s Luke Gifford then defeated Port St. Lucie’s Fletcher Wunderlich on the first sudden-death hole at the Par 5 10th hole on the Champion Course to take home the coveted first-place trophy. Gifford, who shot 75-79, made a 3-foot birdie putt for the win.

A remarkable story at the Honda Classic was the performance of six-year-old, one-armed golfer Thomas Morrissey of Palm Beach Gardens. Morrissey, who was born without the lower part of his right arm from the elbow down, shot a 43 on the back nine of the Fazio course for a four-stroke win over Leonardo Hill.

“It was good. I putted too hard, but I drove great,” Morrissey said.

His father, Joe, was equally proud.

“He’s played since he was 14 months old and has never had a lesson,” the elder Morrissey said.

The Nicklaus Clan was on hand to root for the grandson of The Golden Bear, competing in the 14-15 group. With father Gary and grandpa Jack looking on from the sidelines, 14-year-old Gary Nicklaus Jr. was well off his game, shooting a disappointing second-round 21-over 93 to go along with an 87 on Saturday.

“My son’s game is not very good,” Gary Nicklaus said. “He broke two of his fingers in a pellet gun accident in November and spent fours hours in an emergency room on Thanksgiving morning so he hasn’t done much for six weeks.

“He also likes to do other things so he doesn’t have the maturity in his game at this time.”

Was there pressure from having the senior Nicklaus family watching?

“No pressure here. This is a fun tournament,” the younger Nicklaus said.

And for any fatherly tips for a budding protégé?

“He works with Chi Chi Rodriquez so he doesn’t look to me for too much advice,” Gary Nicklaus said.

Another PGA veteran was on hand to watch his son compete in the 16-18 group.

Bernard Langer accompanied his son Jason, 16, around the Champions course. The Boca Raton teen had a fair day, finishing tied for 8th with an 81-78 two-day score.

In addition to their championship trophies, Gifford and Pano were co-award recipients of the H. Mallory Privett Award, named in honor of a local golf icon who passed away in December, 2015.

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