Two months after taking second place at the NYSPHSAA Boys Golf Championships, recent Oneonta High School graduate Evan Sitts has his eyes on an even bigger prize.
The North Franklin resident is set to make his second appearance at the Junior PGA Championship, beginning Tuesday at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford, Connecticut.
“It’s pretty exciting. Last time I went I had a good time and I was young so I learned a lot,” Sitts told The Daily Star. “This time I hope to play better.”
Sitts last qualified in 2017 when the event was held at the Country Club of St. Albans in St. Albans, Missouri. A first-round 77 kept him near the cut line, but an 86 in the second round saw him total 163 for 36 holes, missing the cut by 15 strokes.
That year, Sitts finished 32nd at the state championships as a sophomore before playing the PGA Junior. As a junior he took fifth at the state tournament before winning silver in early June at the Robert Trent Jones Course at Cornell University.
He’ll be back in action at the state level the weekend after the Junior PGA, as his finish at the NYSPHSAA state tournament qualified him for the New York State Men’s Amateur, to be held from Aug. 6 to Aug. 8 at Crag Burn Golf Club in East Aurora.
In Connecticut, Sitts is looking for a better finish in his second Junior PGA appearance and final junior tournament.
“At the PGA Junior in 2017, I was young but I’ve grown up a lot and I’m excited to play again,” Sitts said. “I think the high level of competition will bring out the best of me.”
At the Northeastern New York Section qualifier, held at Schenectady’s Colonie Golf Course from June 15 to June 16, Sitts tied Nick Crowley of Saratoga Springs for first, claiming one of two qualifying spots. They both totaled scores of one under par to join the field of 144 competitors in Hartford.
While that tournament was one of just a few he has played in recent months, Sitts said he has been actively working on his game with his coach, Stan Lisk.
“I’ve been doing more practicing than playing, which is important,” Sitts said. “I’ve only played in a few tournaments but I’ve been doing a lot of small drills to practice my weaknesses and I’m seeing improvement.”
That work that will likely serve Sitts well at the state amateur and as he begins his collegiate golf career in the fall at York College of Pennsylvania. Before that, he has reason to be confident.
Sitts said he has never played at Keney Park, but noted that the shorter layout plays to his advantage. In 2017, The Lewis and Clark Course at St. Albans measured 7,176 yards. Keney Park, from its back tees, measures 6,449 yards according to the club’s scorecard.
“It’s not a long course which goes to my advantage. I hit it pretty far but not as far as most kids my age,” Sitts said. “Being able to hit shorter clubs that I’m comfortable with is a huge advantage.”
Sitts is the second area player to make the Junior PGA after Unadilla Valley’s Bailey Shoemaker tied for 13th at the Girls Junior PGA, also at Keney Park, during the second weekend of July. Shoemaker totaled a five-under 275 over four rounds, finishing with a four-under 66 in the final round.
Shoemaker, a freshman at UV, will have more attempts to win at the junior and state levels, already taking second twice in NYSPHSAA state tournament play. For Sitts, the tournament is a chance to finish his junior career in style and gather momentum before the state amateur and his first season at York.
“I’m preparing for this fall even though I’m not there yet,” Sitts said. “It’s my last junior tournament so I’m hoping to bring out my best.”