CONNOR GRAHAM WINS R&A JUNIOR OPEN
13 July 2022, Monifieth, Scotland: Connor Graham thrilled home crowds at Monifieth Golf Links to win the R&A Junior Open.
The Blairgowrie golfer becomes just the second Scottish winner following David Inglis in the inaugural 1998 championship.
With 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie watching the action, 15-year-old Graham recorded a bogey-free five-under-par final round 67 to finish on 203, 13-under-par, to defeat heavily fancied Thai player Ratchanon Chantananuwat by five shots.
Eric Zhao from Canada was third on four-under in the 54-hole championship, with Riura Matsui from Japan in fourth spot on two-under.
“It’s a great feeling to come out on top in such a big event,” said Graham. “Ratchanon’s obviously a very good player and it feels good to perform well against him and other good players.”
Graham overcame 109 players aged between 12-16 from 64 nations around the globe to notch his first victory of 2022 after four wins last year.
He added, “This win ranks very high just because of the way I performed here. I didn’t drop a shot today under the pressure so I’m really pleased about that.”
The plus four handicapper began the championship ranked 356th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®), 343 places below Chantananuwat. The 15-year-old arrived in Scotland with an Official World Golf Ranking of 291st after winning the Asian Tour’s Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup earlier this year, a win that made him the youngest male winner of a professional tournament at just 15 years and 37 days.
However, it was Graham who held a two-shot lead as the pair began the final round. That lead soon became four when Graham’s pitch to the 456-yard, par-4, 4th hole landed six inches from the flag for a tap-in birdie. That stroke drew a response from the 1999 Champion Golfer of the Year: “Great shot, well done Connor,” said Lawrie.
The Paul Lawrie Foundation Junior Jug was one of Graham’s four wins last year and he is part of Lawrie’s Foundation to help young Scottish golfers improve their talents.
Graham said, “It was pretty special to see Paul come out and watch me play. I’m one of his ambassadors and he’s helped me a lot in getting my golf to the next level.”
Graham took his lead to four shots by the time he arrived on the 10th tee thanks to two key holes at the 6th and 7th. Chantananuwat missed a short par putt at the former to fall three behind, before Graham holed a 41-yard pitch shot from the side of the 7th green for birdie. With the back nine playing into the wind, birdies were always going to be hard to come by.
Graham practically had both hands on the trophy when Chantananuwat double bogeyed the par-4, 13th hole to fall six shots behind.
“The front nine was crucial because I could have easily dropped a shot or two to let him in, but I kept my foot down and holed that pitch shot at seven to keep the momentum going,” Graham said. “I was glad to see that go in because it gave me a four-shot lead and I needed that because the back nine was playing hard into the wind.”
Chantananuwat said, “Well done to Connor, he played really well and deserved to win. I got the next best place and learned a lot about how to play links golf that will help me in the future.”
The Junior Open, to which all golfing nations affiliated to The R&A are invited to enter their best under-16 boy and girl golfers, is closely linked to The Open and is always played on a nearby course.