Juniors following Spieth’s footsteps in Junior All-Star Series

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By Preston Smith, AJGA Communications

After 12 events across 10 states, the 2015 Junior All-Star Series will conclude this week with three tournaments in Arkansas, California and Virginia.

The last week of the 2015 Junior All-Star Series marks the final opportunity for juniors to earn status towards the 2015 Junior All-Star Team and the Junior All-Star Invitational sponsored by NIKEGOLF in October. The team will be announced on August 18.

“Trying to make the Junior All-Star Team has definitely been a goal of mine this year,” said Ahmed Ali from Palo Alto, California, who is competing this week at the BBCN Junior All-Star. “I went to the Invitational last year in Oregon and attended the dinners and saw the top-10 boys go up on the stage. Since then I’ve been aiming for the Junior All-Star Team.”

The Junior All-Star Series has provided a pathway for younger members of the AJGA for the past 18 years. Jordan Spieth burst onto the scene in 2007 by winning his first AJGA tournament at the Junior All-Star at Walnut Creek. The Texas-native shot a 1-under-par 139 in 2007 for a five-stroke victory over three juniors, including another future PGA TOUR professional, Justin Thomas.

“He and I were in the last group – it was a two-day tournament – and we battled it out,” Spieth said at a press conference Wednesday at the PGA Championship. “We kind of went back and forth throughout that year and then became close and started to travel the same tournaments. And when I started to branch out and play more national golf he was already traveling quite a bit and we became very close.”

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Thomas and Spieth after the awards ceremony at the 2007 Junior All-Star at Walnut Creek

After winning her second Junior All-Star tournament, Alison Lee, the winner of the inaugural ANNIKA Award for the top female collegiate golfer in 2014, joined Spieth on the 2007 Junior All-Star Team.

“It’s cool that I am playing in the same Series that the No. 2 golfer in the world used to play in,” said Wilson Baker of Oxford, Mississippi, who is competing in Arkansas this week. “I feel like everyone is around my age and has a similar skill set which is really fun.”

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Spieth with fellow members of the 2007 Junior All-Star Team

spieth,jordanThe Junior All-Star Series is a collection of events specifically designed for boys and girls age 12-15 years old. The competition provides an opportunity for younger members to develop their skills and build Performance Based Entry status to earn entry into Open tournaments. It also allows juniors to gauge their progress in the AJGA with players in a similar age bracket.

“Playing in the Junior All-Star events definitely helps you grow as a golfer earlier,” said Vivek Vasireddy of Fremont, California, who is competing this week in the Junior All-Star at Chantilly. “Most of us are driving it similar distances, and it’s a great way for us to earn status with the AJGA.”

For Cindy Kou, a 12-year-old from Windermere, Florida, the Junior All-Star Series is a perfect way to break into the ranks of the AJGA.

“If you think about it, players who are older have had a lot more time to practice than we have and are sometimes stronger and can drive it farther,” said Kuo, who is competing in her first Junior All-Star Series tournament this week at the Junior All-Star at Lost Springs presented by Visit Bentonville. “The Junior All-Star Series definitely evens the playing field and gives me goals with the Junior All-Star Team and some of the Invitationals.”

The 2015 Junior All-Star Team will consist of the top-10 boys and girls in the Polo Golf Rankings between the ages of 12 and 15. To be eligible, juniors must have competed in at least two Junior All-Star Series tournaments. The members of the Team will earn fully exempt status for the 2016 season.

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