Roets earns invite to Puerto Rico Open

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RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico – Jason Roets of South Africa survived a sudden-death playoff Monday to win the inaugural Puerto Rico Junior Open, while Monifa Sealy of Trinidad & Tobago won the Girls Division at Trump International Golf Club’s Championship Course.

Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association at Trump International Golf Club – Championship Course, the Puerto Rico Junior Open was a 54-hole stroke play competition. The field featured 78 juniors from 17 countries and 15 U. S. states, as well as 10 players from Puerto Rico. The par-72 Championship Course played to 7,198 yards for the boys and 6,087 yards for the girls.

Roets and Julian Lerda of Buenos Aires, Argentina, finished 54 holes tied at 1-over-par 217 and went to a sudden-death playoff to determine the champion. After Lerda’s six-foot par putt skirted the hole, Roets sank three-footer to seal the victory.

“I don’t really have words,” Roets said. “It’s a great feeling.”

With his victory, Roets receives an invitation to play in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com, scheduled for March 10-13. Roets will play the same golf course, set up with the same yardages and hole locations as he saw this week at the Puerto Rico Junior Open.

“It’s a dream come true early for me,” Roets said. “I’d have never dreamed of it before, but now that it’s happening, I’m ready for the TOUR event.”

Getting to the playoff took some excellent play by Roets and Lerda. Roets shot a final-round 75 to come from three shots back, while Lerda shot the tournament-low round of 5-under-par 67 to erase an 11-stroke deficit.

Second-round leader Wilson Bateman of Spruce Grove, Alberta, and George Cunningham of Litchfield Park, Ariz., finished one shot back in a tie for third at 2-over-par 218. Emiliano Grillo of Argentina finished fifth at 3-over-par 219.

In the Girls Division, Sealy began the final round with a one-stroke lead, but found herself trailing Patricia Garcia of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, late in the day. That changed quickly, however, as Sealy made birdie at 17, while Garcia bogeyed the 18th. The two-shot swing gave Sealy a one-shot cushion, which she held with a par at 18 to finish at 2-over-par 218.

Of her crucial birdie at 17, Sealy said, “I hit it to two feet. I was in the fairway, 115 yards out, and I thought ‘It’s all or nothing now.’ When I heard everyone clapping I was like, ‘Yes!’”

After fighting her way out of a recent slump, Sealy was thrilled with her first AJGA victory.

“I feel 100 pounds lighter today,” Sealy said. “I feel relief and happiness. I was playing great last year, but my last three tournaments my game was in a rut.”

Sealy also was glad to pick up a win near her home in Trinidad & Tobago.

“I’m really happy because Trinidad and Puerto Rico have a big rivalry,” she said. “Last year, Patricia (Garcia) beat me by one at the Caribbean Amateur Junior.”

This time, Garcia finished one behind Sealy, where she tied for second with Giovana Maymon of Huixquilucan, Mexico, at 3-over-par 219. The three girls all shared the lead after the first round, and they stayed close throughout the weekend.

Tied for fourth were Maria Torres of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, and Nicole Quinn of Windermere, Fla., at 6-over-par 222.