New fashion, new faces fill final spots in Greatest Juniors field

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Zach Jacobson of Poland hits out of the sand onto the No. 3 green at Trumbull Country Club in Warren during Wednesday’s final qualifier for The Greatest Golfer of the Valley Juniors tournament. The final is July 27 at Avalon Lakes Golf & Country Club in Howland.

By Kevin Connelly


There are some wardrobe accessories that should never leave the closet.

Then there’s Joey Shushok’s bucket hat.

The 15-year-old made the purchase less than two weeks ago and hasn’t teed up without it since. He also has a string of consecutive rounds under 80 with it.

Is it good luck?

“I don’t know, but it’s not coming off,” Shushok said.

The bucket hat may not be a fashion statement coming back anytime soon, but Shushok will be leading the charge if he keeps playing the way he did on Wednesday.

Shushok became the sixth and final automatic qualifier in the boys 17-and-under division for the Greatest Golfer of the Valley Juniors championship with a round of 2-over par 72 at Trumbull Country Club.

It wasn’t just the hat — he was playing pretty well, too.

“I got off the tee well today and if I get off the tee well that usually leads to more confidence with everything else,” said Shushok, who had 12 points entering the final qualifier.

“I knew that if I played a decent round I’d be in.”

He’ll join the five previous qualifier winners, plus the top-six points earners, in the finals on July 27 at Avalon Lakes Golf Club. The field includes Billy Colbert, last year’s defending champion.

“I have high expectations for myself now,” Shushok said. “I’m going to have to control my emotions and realize bad holes are going to happen every once in a while, but as I showed today, anything can happen.”

Will we see the now-famous bucket hat at Avalon Lakes?

“Absolutely,” he said.

From a new wardrobe accessory to two new faces, who established themselves by taking advantage of the qualifying system in their first Greatest Juniors event of the season.

Both Ryan Rosenberger and Jared Wilson qualified for the championship on Wednesday without having played in any of the prior qualifying events. Rosenberger will compete in the girls 17-and-under division, while Wilson made the boys 14-and-under finals field.

Wilson also had the round of the day, shooting a 1-under par 69. The younger age division played from shorter tees than normal, not taking anything away from an under-par round.

The 14-year-old said he wasn’t entirely comfortable with the shorter distance because it changes a lot of shots, but clearly his score wasn’t affected by it.

Joining Wilson in the finals from the points standings was overall points leader Bobby Jonda. He earned a top-five finish in every event and placed well ahead of every other non-automatic qualifier in the field.

The girls 17-and-under division final will be stacked with last year’s top three finishers, Christian Cooper, Jacinta Pikunas and Kaylee Neumeister.

It was also the only division which required a tiebreaker to determine who earned the last finals spot from the points standings. Nicole Gula beat out Mary Hunt based on average score to make the final event.

Jenna Jacobson joined the other five girls 14-and-under participants on Wednesday, as all six girls will play in the upcoming championship.

The first group tees off at 1 p.m. at Avalon Lakes.

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