HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Golfer James Newton is at the top of his game.
The Royal Ottawa Golf Club junior hasn’t played a competitive round of golf this month, but that’s OK. What he has accomplished this month should rank at the top of his impressive list of accomplishments for his COVID-19-pandemic-shadowed 2021 season.
Nov. 10th was National Signing Day in the United States as high school athletes committed to their university of choice and the sport that earned them an athletic scholarship.
For Newton, the university choices were many, but last Friday he signed his National Letter of Intent to attend Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, and become a member of the Scarlet Knights men’s golf team.
On Wednesday, the Blythe Academy high school graduate was officially welcomed by Golf Canada onto its Team Canada junior development squad. Golf Canada announced a large 2021-22 group of 46 national team athletes – 13 men and eight women for the national amateur team, and 13 men and 12 women on the junior team. Newton was the lone golfer from Ottawa and area.
The Ottawa Valley Golf Association also saw four other junior players, all women, take the next big step in their education and golfing careers – Royal Ottawa’s Ashley Lafontaine committed to Elon University, Isabella Ferguson to Simon Fraser University, Rideau View’s Lauren Gervais to Davenport University and Royal Ottawa’s Maddy Pytura to Saint Leo University.
“It felt awesome,” Newton said in a phone interview about selecting Rutgers, where he hopes to study business. “It’s nice to know that I’m officially part of the Rutgers team. I’m excited for the next four years.”
Newton had numerous university options as he also considered offers from Penn State, Virginia Tech, Delaware, Denver and Washington State.
“The academics were very strong (at Rutgers) and that’s one of the things I wanted to see in a school,” he added. “Coach (Rob) Shutte also is very good and I liked him a lot. He checked all the boxes for me.”
Newton also was confident he had a good shot at making the national junior development team, after placing fourth at the Team Canada selection camp in Toronto this summer.
“I wasn’t really surprised,” Newton noted. “I played pretty well and worked hard to get that result.”
That result was one of his best during his 2021 golf season. His crowning moment on the golf course was when he won the Ontario boys’ junior championship, recording a 16-under-par score of 272 at the Whistle Bear Golf Club in Cambridge and winning by 13 strokes.
He also had four other significant top-10 results: first at the 2021 South Florida PGA junior tour championship, ninth at the Canadian boys’ junior championship, tied for 10th at the Quebec men’s amateur and 10th at the Quebec boys’ junior championship.
Newton was a student-athlete from September 2020 to June 2021 in Florida at the Matt DeJohn Golf Academy, where he continued to develop his game and play 10 tournaments. He joined the national team program this week with a week-long training camp in Phoenix.
He also is considering a return to Florida to work with Matt DeJohn to prepare for the 2022 season and his freshman season at Rutgers.
Nepean High School
Committed to Elon University (Elon, North Carolina)
The Royal Ottawa golfer won an Ontario qualifying tournament to become one of nine Canadians to advance to the United States girls’ junior golf championship, where she missed the cut.
She also was a finalist in the Ontario women’s match-play championship and tied for sixth at the Ontario women’s medal-play championship.
Invited to the 2021 Team Canada development program selection camp, Lafontaine finished third in the Ontario Spring Classic and was a member of the Ottawa Valley Golf Association junior development team program for three years.
St. Mother Teresa High School
Committed to Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, B.C.)
Ferguson had a memorable season in 2021 with a third-place result at the Quebec girls’ junior championship, a tie for fifth at the Ontario U19 championship, a seventh at the Quebec women’s amateur and a tie for 35th at the Canadian women’s amateur.
In 2019, the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club junior won the Golf Canada Future Links Atlantic tournament, rallying from 10 strokes down entering the final round and winning on the first hole of a playoff. She also was invited to participate in the Team Canada junior development program.
John McCrae Secondary School
Committed to Davenport University (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
A multiple champion and medallist at the Ottawa Valley Golf Association city and district championships, the OVGA junior development team member placed 17th at the 2021 Quebec girls’ junior championship and was seventh in the juvenile division.
The Rideau View Golf Club player also competed in the 2019 IMG Academy World Junior Championship and tied for 33rd.
Nepean High School
Committed to Saint Leo University (Saint Leo, Florida)
An Ottawa Valley Golf Association junior development team athlete, Pytura placed fifth at the 2021 Quebec girls’ junior championships and advanced to the Canadian girls’ junior championship, where she tied for 64th.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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