- July 26, 2017
BAY HILL Some of the nation’s top junior golfers descended upon Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Dr. Phillips last week, not only to compete for a championship but also to honor the memory of one of the game’s great advocates in Central Florida.
The tournament was the second playing of the American Junior Golf Association’s Jim Bell Memorial Junior. Jim Bell, who died in 2015, was the tournament director of the Bay Hill Invitational (now known as the Arnold Palmer Invitational) for 27 years — from its inception in 1979 through 2005.
Bell was also a board member of the AJGA and was passionate about growing the junior game, said his widow, J. Gail Bell. The tournament, which was played in 2016 at Alaqua Lakes in Longwood, was relocated for 2017 to the course to which Bell dedicated so much of his time.
“We love that it’s here — it’s just got a special meaning,” Melinda Bell, Jim Bell’s daughter, said.
The event itself did not disappoint — even if Mother Nature threw in a couple of wrenches by way of rain delays.
Although Leopoldo Herrera III, of Doral, ran away with the boys division to win by six strokes, Izzy Pellot’s victory in the girls division involved an exciting, four-hole playoff.
Pellot, who is just 12 years old and is from nearby Apopka, edged Heathrow’s Jenny Kim on the 13th hole, after the playoff initially began on the 10th hole. Both golfers finished the tournament with a score of 226.
Play concluded July 13, and the tournament victory was the first for each golfer on the AJGA.
In total, nearly 80 junior golfers competed at Bay Hill last week, including 17 out-of-state competitors and eight international competitors from countries including Vietnam, South Korea, Mexico and India.
Locally, six competitors competed in the boys division. Leading the way, Windermere’s Grant Drogosch finished tied for 10th place, and Winter Garden’s Dylan Bittenbender finished tied for 14th. Additionally, Chase Nowicki (Windermere) placed 27th, Eric Berggren (Windermere) placed 29th, Kirill Kaptur (Windermere) placed tied for 36th, and Nick Rojas (Windermere) placed 50th.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]