MILFORD — Great River Golf Club may be home to Milford’s Ben James, but like the businessman who spends his time on the road, sometimes coming home means getting reacquainted.
He still shot a 4-under 68 Tuesday, one off his personal best over the track, to lead the Northern Junior Championship by a stroke after 18 out of 36 holes.
“(Home-course advantage) helps a little. I do feel comfortable,” James said. “I honestly don’t play this course a lot because I’m off at a lot of tournaments. I do practice here. But it’s comfortable here. It was nice to have my family here.”
James leads a field of 77 boys starters, of whom four finished under par 72; Middlefield’s Chris Fosdick trailed him by one. They’ll play the final round Wednesday.
The girls competition was halted twice by lightning in the area. The second horn, around 7:15 p.m., ended the day. Five groups remained on the course, and they’ll come back Wednesday morning to finish, then play the final round.
James had four birdies on the front nine and two more on the back. He was the only boys competitor under par on both nines.
“I just kept it together, pretty much all the time,” James said. “Starting out with a birdie helped a lot to start the momentum. I kept the ball in play most of the time, hit a lot of greens. I stuck to my game plan, and it worked.”
It’s not bad, either, for a player who’ll soon be a freshman at Hamden Hall. He was one of five boys in the field with a 2022 graduation date listed; one graduates in 2023. The girls field included two 2023s and three 2022s.
“It doesn’t faze me at all,” James said about being one of the younger competitors. “I know my game plan, so if I play it, I’ll do all right.”
The first girls group had just reached the 18th green around 4:30 p.m. when the horn blew, stopping play with lightning detected in the area.
“It was kind of nice,” said Newtown’s Sarah Houle, who has two holes to play in her first round and sits at 2-over, two behind leader Addy Douglas of Newport, R.I.
“The weather, the wind, it was nice to take a bit of a break. I felt relatively fresh going back out there.”
The vanguard had been the wind, stiffly blowing and preventing anyone after James’ 9:40 a.m. tee time from making a big run at the leaderboard.
“It felt like it was always straight in our face or straight at our backs,” Houle said.
Douglas and Cheshire’s Mia Hidalgo reached the 18th green as the second horn blew. They chose to finish the hole (in a hurry), getting Douglas into the clubhouse with a 72, one better than Gio Kim of Upper Saddle River, N.J.
Fosdick, the CIAC State Open champion for Xavier this spring, set the early pace in the morning for the boys, lamenting only a double-bogey on 13 in which he put his ball in the water.
“The past couple of tournaments, off-the-tee hasn’t been my strength. Approach shots have been my strength,” Fosdick said. “Today, something clicked. I hit every fairway. I hit almost every green.”
He said he hit driver more often here than usual.
“(Wednesday), I want to play the same as I did today, except, the double (bogey) today, I didn’t think about, if I missed it, where I’d end up,” Fosdick said. “So tomorrow, I want make sure if mishit a shot, that it’ll end up in a safe spot.”
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17th Northern Junior Championship
(at Great River Golf Club, par 72)
Boys: 68: Ben James, Milford. 69: Chris Fosdick, Middlefield. 70: Shane DeVincenzo, Port Jefferson, N.Y. 71: Luca Ferrara, Toronto. 72: Jude Cummings, Pittsford, N.Y.; Tyler Hahn, Avon; Zachary Maloy, Potomac, Md.; Justin Mathew, Rocky Hill. 73: James Tyler, Virginia Beach, Va.; Carson Bacha, York, Pa.; Chris Lee, West Nyack, N.Y.; Luke Sample, New York; Jack Maguire, Ridgefield; Erik Stauderman, Poughkeepsie, N.Y; Hayden Rousselle, Doylestown, Pa. 74: Alex Aurora, Hamden; James Allen, Scarsdale, N.Y.; Will Morlan, Alpharetta, Ga.; Matthew Doyle, Madison. 75: William Klein, Bethesda, Md.; Nolan Forsman, Larchmont, N.Y.; Tommy Dallahan, Simsbury; John Del Priore, Charlotte, N.C.; Andrew Curran, Media, Pa.; Connor Hicks, Pound Ridge, N.Y.; Mac Mahoney, West Hartford; John Updike, Wayne, Pa. Other regional finishers: 77: Kevin Morris, Hamden; Will Lodge, Darien. 78: Colin Cusa, Westport. 80: Tyler Woodward, Durham. 81: Noah Bass, Fairfield; Jake Ivan-Pal, Milford. 82: Henry Sparkman, Darien. 84: Kyle St. Pierre, Shelton. 85: Christopher Pieper, Woodbury. 86: Max Orwicz, New Canaan; Luke Carroll, West Hartford.
Girls: Play suspended (lightning), will resume Wednesday morning before final round