EAST AURORA—Donald Jeffe doesn’t like to root against his hometeam. But the Springville resident always roots for East Aurora-Holland’s golf team when they face the Griffins. That’s because his twin grandsons, Matt and Mitch Jeffe play for East Aurora-Holland.
For Jeffe, the only thing better than watching his grandsons play, is playing with them, and that’s just what he did when he took the boys to Pittsburgh about two weeks ago. The following day, at the Greater Pittsburgh Open, Mitch earned fifth place and Matt took home sixth.
Last weekend the sibling pair played for even higher stakes in the oldest junior golf tournament in North America – the International Junior Masters June 25-29 at the East Aurora Country Club.
Jeffe was there too to help bring more luck and this time one of his grandsons hit pay dirt. Mitch captured the championship title in the Bronze Flight. With the match ending on the 14th hole, Jeffe gathered his grandson and his son Mark for a quick photo to capture the moment.
The four-day International Junior Masters begins with two days of stroke play. Those two-day scores are then broken down into five flights of 16. Jeffe’s other grandson didn’t fare as well as Mitch, but he was also made the IJM cut to compete, which is an accomplishment within itself.
Matt competed in the Gold Flight, but was defeated in the opening round by Reece Massel (Warrenton, Va.) after 16 holes.
Mitch, however, disposed of four opponents in match play. In the Bronze Flight finals, Mitch bested Danny Ames of Addison. Officially, he was up five holes with four remaining.
According to the twins’ father Mark, the two were separated by just a quarter-stroke by Erie County Interscholastic Conference rankings and about six minutes at birth.
“I felt pretty comfortable (about winning) on the back nine after going up five after nine,” Mitch said about his biggest win to date, especially after the 13th hole. “The 13th is the toughest hole for sure. The tee-shot makes it hard because if it goes anywhere left the trees knock it farther and if it goes right it goes out of bounds.”
To get to the title in the Bronze Flight, Mitch defeated Mike Donner (Hamburg) in the semifinals after the 12th hole, Mike Tomczak (Lakeview) in the quarterfinals after 17 holes and Tyler Thomas (Corning) in the opening round – also after 17 holes.
Mark Jeffe was thrilled to watch both sons compete in such a prestigious event along with Donald and attributes their success in the sport from all the time they’ve spent practicing. The pair spent time chipping in the backyard while waiting for the school bus where Mark set up a practice range.
EACC PGA Golf Pro David Jones is in his third year in East Aurora and believes any of the club’s eight members in this year’s IJM – that includes both Jeffe’s – can win on any given day. Of course that was just prior to Mitch claiming the Bronze Flight.
“We’ve got a core group of strong players out here and they all show (their skills) individually at different times. Every year someone does really well, so you just don’t know. We have five or six super strong kids and ones not necessarily gonna be better than the next on any given week,” Jones said.
In IJM flight play, competing golfers who win the most holes advance after 18. If both golfers score the same for a particular hole, neither scores the hole with that hole logged as tied or halved during match play. Conversely, the IJM opens with 36 holes of stroke play. From stroke play comes the division of flights with the top flight players competing for the overall IJM title and the remaining flights divided into brackets of platinum, gold, silver and bronze.
The IJM brings the greatest 17-year-old and under players from around the world with this year’s field consisting of players from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Colombia and Australia.