THE WOODLANDS, T.X. —Gabriel Lench of Lake Mary, Florida, won his first AJGA career tournament wire-to-wire at the CB&I Boys Championship at Carlton Woods with a tournament total of 10-under-par 206. The high school senior shot a final-round even-par 72 on a day where only one other player shot par or better. The weather took a 30-degree swing to the low 40’s from the first two rounds in the 70’s and brought intermittent rain and 20-mph winds on an overcast day.
Begun in 1987, the CB&I Boys Championship is the longest-running boys-only event on the AJGA schedule, and features past champions including Jordan Spieth (2011), Rickie Fowler (2006), Tiger Woods (1992), David Duval (1989) and Jim Furyk (1987). The week’s field of 72 boys features 17 of the top 25 boys in the Polo Golf Rankings and players from 19 states, China, Japan, Norway, Mexico, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago and Vietnam.
After setting the Fazio competitive course record and tying the 18-hole tournament scoring record of 63 in the first round, Lench brought a comfortable four-stroke lead into the final round. The Liberty University commit made a 12-foot birdie on No. 7, but played the front nine 1-over-par 37 after a bogey on No. 9. 2014 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Sam Burns of Shreveport, Louisiana, and Spencer Soosman of Westlake Village, California, gave chase, coming within two strokes of the lead at the turn. Both juniors played the front nine at 1-under-par 35 but Lench rebounded early on the back nine with birdies on Nos. 10 and 13. He clinched the victory with a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 17, one of his 20 birdies during the tournament.
“It feels amazing,” the first-time AJGA champion said. “To get my first victory in such a beautiful place where the people are so nice, with all the hospitality, and support, is awesome. My host family, my parents, my friends all told me I could do this and I’ve been so close but winning an Invitational is awesome.”
Burns played the round of the day as the only player to finish under-par with birdies on Nos. 6, 8, 10 and 12. The Calvary Baptist Academy senior finished runner-up at 7-under-par 209 with his 2-under-par 70 final round effort.
“I knew going into it that half the field would give up after seeing the conditions,” said Burns, who has won two other AJGA victories and finished inside the top 10 in every AJGA event he’s played since October 2013. “I thought if I went out there and made pars and a few birdies here and there, I would have a chance. My hat’s off to Gabriel, he played outstanding this whole week and deserves it. I played great all week, it just wasn’t enough.’
Soosman gave chase throughout the first round, remaining between two and four strokes behind Lench. A tap-in birdie on No. 6 helped Soosman get 1-under-par through 12 holes, but the 2014 Polo Golf Junior Classic champion played his final six holes 5-over-par to finish third at his first CB&I Boys Championship at Carlton Woods. Soosman ended 4-over-par 76 for a tournament total of 2-under-par 214.
Ryan Grider of Lewisville, Texas, and Nathan Jeansonne of Keithville, Louisiana, finished tied for fourth at 2-over-par 218. Playing in his fourth AJGA Invitational, Brandon Smith of Frisco, Texas, ended alone in sixth with a 3-over-par 219, while the trio of Davis Riley of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Cameron Young of Scarborough, New York, and Garrett Barber of Stuart, Florida, all tied for seventh at 4-over-par 220. Rounding out the top 10 was Jacob Solomon who ended with a 5-over-par 221.