By Gianna Addario
---- — From Tedesco to Truckee, Paul Lei is going places with his golf game.
The 16-year-old Lei, who lives in Middleton, is headed to the West Coast to compete in the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif. The 66th annual event, held by the United States Golf Association, helps determine the best junior golfer in the country.
The event is open to qualifying individuals who are under the age of 18 and have a 6.4 handicap or below. Two stroke play rounds will be held Monday and Tuesday to get down to match play, which begins on Wednesday and culminates with the championship round on Saturday.
The 5-foot-11 Lei, who just finished competing in the American Junior Golf Association Junior event at Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead, will tee off Monday morning at 8:50 a.m.
He had played in a qualifier at Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton last month to earn his ticket to California. After shooting a 76 during the morning session, Lei — who attends Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire — came back with a 70 in the afternoon (on the strength of four consecutive birdies), forcing a playoff. There, he bested Drew Powell of Maine in a two-hole showdown to earn the final spot at next week’s Junior Championship.
“I knew I had a shot of qualifying,” said Lei, who missed out on the opportunity to do so the previous two summers. “I wasn’t worried about the score. I was more focused on each shot I took.”
Lei started golfing around the age of 9, when his father took him to a driving range and he fell in love with the sport. Since then, Lei has won a staggering 45 local New England and Northeast regional golf tournaments.
The high school junior-to-be has traveled nationwide for different tournaments and events, including Florida and California in addition to many courses throughout New England.
“It’s been a good experience seeing kids play from other parts of the country,” noted Lei. “I know how good the competition in California will be, but I’m focused on my play.”
His best score, a 5-under par 67, came at the Big I Junior Golf Classic at the Crumpin Fox Club earlier this month.
Following his time in California, Lei will return home to compete in the Massachusetts Junior Championship at Essex Country Club in Manchester (July 29-31).