PRINCETON: Graham is state golf champion

PHS junior finishes year at top of game

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
   Last summer Fraser Graham made a decision that he wanted to play golf in college.
   While that decision meant less time on the ice as a hockey player, it has certainly paid off for him on the golf course. The Princeton High junior capped of an amazing season by winning the Tournament of Champions title on Monday at Rumson Country Club.
   Graham, who earlier this season had won the Garden State Cup and Mercer County Tournament titles, shot a 72 to capture the individual title at the TOC on Monday. He finished one shot ahead of four golfers and captured the state Group II championship in the process.
   West Windsor-Plainsboro North sophomore Charles Cai shot a 76 and finished first in Group III. Cai was 14th overall. Montgomery High finished 21st overall in the team competition, led by Brian Motherway with a 79. Jeff Thomsen shot an 85, Ryan Warrier had a 90, and Zach Miller had a 95 for the Cougars.
   ”I had never really won any tournaments in my career until this year and then this year I won three high school tournaments and a qualifier, which was the same week as the Garden State Cup,” said Graham, who shot a 36 on each nine for his 72. “I was hoping after I finished second at the Mercer County Tournament last year that I could win it this year. But if you had asked me at the beginning of the season, I would have said there was no way I was going to win three tournaments and one of them would be the Tournament of Champions.”
   Graham knew that in order to reach his goals on the golf course he was going to have to take some time away from the ice, where he is also a standout ice hockey player. The commitment was one he was willing to make.
   ”I am only playing high school hockey right now,” said Graham, who helped the Little Tigers reach the Mercer County Tournament final this past season. “I used to play all year but I stopped last summer. I tried out for the travel team I was going to play on. But in the summer my dad and I talked about it. We realized that if I really wanted to play college golf, which is my goal, that I couldn’t make a commitment to a AAA hockey team and travel all over the place and still be committed to everything I want to do in golf.
   ”High school hockey was exciting this year. We got to the Mercer County final. I still have a lot of fun playing hockey and I get to have fun playing it.”
   Graham, who was playing the Rumson course for the first time, could tell early on that it had the makings of a special day. He was his usual consistent self on the course and played well enough to beat a talented field.
   ”I had a bogey on my first hole, but on the next hole I made a long birdie putt of about 30 feet and then I made a couple pars and from there on I felt like it was going pretty well,” Graham said. “I wasn’t trying to think about if I was winning or not. I was just trying to take it shot by shot and focus on every shot that I had.
   ”I was 1-under through 12 holes and I felt like if I could get another birdie and a bunch of pars I would be safe and that might be good enough to win as long as no one shot a ridiculous score. But there were so many good players I could never really be sure with any score.”
   It turned out that his score was good enough to win on a day where a lot of players were shooting nice scores. While four players shot 73, there were five others who shot 74.
   Graham is the second golfer from Mercer County and the Packet area to win a TOC title in the last four years. WW-P South’s Anthony Aloi was the TOC champion in 2007.