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Wellesley’s Balter and Gratton, Franklin’s French tee off

Area teens earn
US Amateur berths

Ben Balter and John Gratton, a pair of Wellesley residents, and Franklin’s Peter French are all just 19. But their appearance in this week’s US Amateur golf championship could result in a lifetime of memories.

The tournament tees off Monday at the Charles River Country Club in Newton and The Country Club in Brookline with two days of medal play that will narrow the field. The championship will conclude next Sunday at The Country Club with a 36-hole match between the last two players standing.

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Balter, a couple of weeks shy of his freshman season on the golf team at Wake Forest University, also qualified for the US Amateur a year ago, and made the trip to Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado, where he shot rounds of 77-75, missing the cut for match play.

“It was a great experience,’’ said Balter, who attended high school in Florida, but earned his berth this year by winning a four-man playoff in a local qualifier held at his home course, Weston Golf Club.

“Knowing the course helped and I hope it’s a great momentum builder,’’ said Balter, who sank a 25-foot birdie putt to nail down the third and final qualifying spot.

“I’ve completely changed my swing plane with the help of my father, Stephen, and even though I went through some rough moments doing so I feel I’m ready for the challenge,’’ he said.

“Playing at Charles River and Brookline, especially in the year of the 100th anniversary of Francis Ouimet’s US Open win at The Country Club, has been my goal since last year’s US Amateur, and joining John and Peter in the field says a lot about the quality of junior golf in Massachusetts.’’

Jeremy Brofsky, who has caddied at The Country Club for five years and has been friends with Balter since their middle school years in Wayland, will be at his side this week.

Gratton, who plays out of Dedham Country & Polo Club, will have club member Colin Kalell on his bag. Close friend Jim Leary will tote the clubs for French, whose family owns Maplegate Country Club in Bellingham.

An Independent School League MVP at the Brooks School in North Andover who helped start its varsity golf program, Gratton was a semifinalist in this year’s Mass. Amateur at Longmeadow CC. He lost to eventual champ Mike Calef, but not before sinking a hole-in-one in his quarterfinal match.

The next day, he tied the course record at Dedham Country & Polo with a 64.

Gratton is club champion at the Kittansett Club in Marion, where his family also holds a membership. His father, Duncan, is the club champion at Dedham, and they paired a year ago to win the state Father-Son title.

“My game really came together this summer and I hope to make a great run at the US Amateur,’’ said Gratton, who graduated this year from Brooks and will attempt to walk onto the golf team at the University of Richmond. “My dad has played in three Mass. Amateurs, and I’m not sure who’s more excited about my qualifying for the US Amateur.’’

Gratton was the medalist at the Weston qualifier, shooting a 2-over 146 for 36 holes and ending his day with a flourish — an eagle 3 on the final hole.

“My putter’s been hot,’’ he said, “and I hope it stays that way’’ this week.

French, a former state schoolboy champion out of Franklin High, is a rising sophomore at Johnson & Wales University in Miami, and was a quarterfinalist at this year’s Mass. Amateur.

He qualified for the US Amateur by tying for second place at Vesper Country Club in Tyngsborough at 4-under.

“The US Amateur is something you always strive for, and the best thing I can do is just stay within myself and be patient because until my practice rounds, I’ve never played either course,’’ he said.

“But I know they’ll both be demanding and it’s a thrill to be at The Country Club in this centennial year. It’s definitely something special.’’

French has been holding a golf club since about the time he started walking.

“I was born the year my dad, Mike French, qualified for the US Mid-Amateur and I remember being on my knees watching him practice before I was 2 years old,’’ French recalled. “Later on, he had to tell me to get off the practice range at Maplegate because it was getting dark and I didn’t want to leave.’’

Thorbjornsen, 11, wins a US golf title

Michael Thorbjornsen, who will attend Wellesley Middle School this fall, won the 11-year-old division at the US Kids Golf World Championship that concluded Aug 3 in Pinehurst, N.C.

Thorbjornsen, the US Kids Golf 2012 Player of the Year, won the same title as a 10-year-old. He carded a bogey-free 68 in the final round at Talamore Golf Club, which was laid out at just under 6,000 yards to accommodate his age group. He erased a four-stroke deficit to win by two shots.

He hones his skills on the 9-hole layout at the Harmon Club in Rockland.

Swimmer Karlson wins college honor

Wayland’s Katie Karlson, a record-setting swimmer at Connecticut College, ended her senior year on a high note as recipient of the school’s Brown/Brooks Award. It is given to the outstanding male and female student-athletes who best represent the senior class in scholarship, leadership, and sportsmanship.

A 2011 All-American who holds two individual marks and shares two relay records, Karlson was a three-time New England Small College Athletic Conference selection for both swimming and academics, and a three-time Academic All-American.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.
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