#AJGAALUM

TPC Sawgrass, the stuff of legends

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By Tim Jackman (@AJGAJackman), AJGA Communications

When you watch a live sporting event on TV it can almost appear as if it is from another world. The people and the places seem made up in some way. If you watched THE PLAYERS Championship on TV this year, you were not alone. Sunday’s final round received the third-highest rating in the last decade of THE PLAYERS. But how could you not watch Rickie Fowler go birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie in his final four holes to force a playoff? It was captivating to watch, but did it almost seem not real? What about in 2001 when Tiger dropped an impossible birdie putt that was “better than most” on No. 17 on moving day and eventually went on to win? All these events can seem so distant. But this week for 78 boys, those memories will come to life.

The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf is near the top of the junior golf pinnacle. The world’s best boy junior golfers will compete in a 54-hole tournament designed to give the juniors the TOUR experience.

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Schniederjans, Grillo, Rodgers and Spieth with 2010 champion Michael Johnson.

In 2010 alone, the event featured six of the top-10 finishers are now playing professionally. Jordan Spieth (T2), Emiliano Grillo (T2), Patrick Rodgers (7th), Daniel Berger (T8) and Ollie Schniederjans (T8).

At the 2015 THE PLAYERS Championship, five players made the transition from The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf to the pro event. Morgan Hoffmann won the inaugural junior event in 2007, and he was joined by Brooks Koepka (T9, 2007), Justin Thomas (T38, 2008; T26, 2009), Jordan Spieth (T2, 2010) and Daniel Berger (T8, 2010).

This year the field strength is no different. Twenty-two of the top-25 players in the Polo Golf Rankings will compete. Joining the top players are 16 international boys who have earned their way via accomplishments in their home countries. These players look to challenge THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, with hole locations mimicking the TOUR event and caddies helping them navigate the many water hazards and difficult angles.

Nobody can predict who will win this week, but one thing is for sure, there is nothing quite like the feeling of walking the same fairways as some of golf’s greatest and making your own unforgettable golf moments.

From PING Junior Solheim Cup to the Solheim Cup

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By Tim Jackman (@AJGAJackman), AJGA Communications

On Monday evening, the U.S. Solheim Cup team was finalized with the announcement of the final two captain’s picks. In all, 12 women from the United States will travel to St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany to compete against the 12 best women from Europe in a match play format similar to the Ryder Cup.

Jane Park, Mallory Code, Brittany Lincicome, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Captain Sherri Steinhauer with Annika Sorenstam at the 2002 PING Junior Solheim Cup
Jane Park, Mallory Code, Brittany Lincicome, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Captain Sherri Steinhauer with Annika Sorenstam at the 2002 PING Junior Solheim Cup

Of the 12 United States players, nine are AJGA alumni. An even more important note is that six of the alumnae played at least once on the United States team for the PING Junior Solheim Cup. The PING Junior Solheim Cup is traditionally played in the same area as the Solheim Cup. This year it will be held at the same golf course for the first time in the event’s history.

Paula Creamer, Brittany Lang, Lexi Thompson, Alison Lee, Brittany Lincicome and Morgan Pressel all took part in the PING Junior Solheim Cup during their junior careers.

Lee is the only newcomer to the team, but she has plenty of experience in international match play. The U.S. PING Junior Solheim Cup team was undefeated with her on it in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Another interesting notes is that in 2002 Pressel helped win a foursomes match against European foe Azahara Munoz. Munoz will be competing in the Solheim Cup this year for the European team.

Paula Creamer

Years played: 2002 and 2003 (Record: 4-2-0)

Lexi Thompson

Years played: 2009 (Record: 3-0-0)

Thompson, 2009 PING Junior Solheim Cup
Thompson, 2009 PING Junior Solheim Cup

Brittany Lang

Years played: 2002 (Record: 1-1-1)

Alison Lee

Years played: 2009, 2011, 2013 (Record: 3-5-1)

Lee wins her anchor singles match at the 2013 PING Junior Solheim Cup
Lee, 2013 PING Junior Solheim Cup

Brittany Lincicome

Years played: 2002, 2003 (Record: 2-4-0)

Morgan Pressel

Years played: 2002, 2005 (Record: 4-0-2)

Pressel, 2005 PING Junior Solheim Cup
Pressel, 2005 PING Junior Solheim Cup

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.

#AJGAAlumni in the headlines (June 1)

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By Haley Hodoval, AJGA Communications

Seventeen-year-old Joshua Sedeno secured a two-stroke victory over AJGA alumnus Cameron Champ on May 25 at the Memorial Amateur to become the youngest winner in the event's 18-year history.

Sedeno, a current AJGA junior and Southern Methodist University commit, had a three-shot lead going into the final round over Champ, the defending champion.

"It means a lot because it's a local event," said Sedeno, who is a junior at Del Oro High School. "A lot of my friends who have gone off to college now have played and won this so it's just awesome to put my name on this trophy."

Sedeno

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On May 27, at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida, Stanford defeated Baylor to take home the 2015 NCAA DI Women’s Golf championship title. Led by Rolex Junior All-American and 2011 AJGA Player Representative Mariah Stackhouse, the Cardinal won their first NCAA women’s golf title in school history, beating the Bears 3 & 2 in the match play final. 

Stackhouse birdied Nos. 17 and 18 resulting in a sudden-death playoff against Baylor’s Hayley Davis.

“I actually thought a lot about it last night,” the Riverdale, Georgia, native said. “It felt kind of silly, but I envisioned some kind of crazy finish with me having to hit huge shots. I knew I was going to be down and I was going to have to do something crazy to come back.”

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Rolex Junior All-American Casey Danielson finished 2-up over Laura Lonardi, and fellow Stanford teammate and Rolex Junior All-American Shannon Aubert defeated Lauren Whyte 4 & 3 in the newly adopted match-play format to contribute to Stanford’s historic win.

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Over the weekend, 18-year-old amateur golfer and four-time AJGA champion Austin Connelly of Irving, Texas, made the cut at the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship, his PGA TOUR debut. The Byron Nelson event holds special significance for Connelly and his family as the Rolex Junior All-American grew up playing the TPC Four Seasons Resort Dallas at Las Colinas.

"To be able to make my PGA Tour debut here is surreal," said Connelly, who over the weekend also was also named to Canada’s golf team for the summer Pan Am Games. "I can't put it into words." 

He even had the pleasure of meeting Byron Nelson, among other PGA TOUR legends, when he was a young boy.

"He hit balls with (Byron Nelson) when he was four years old," said Austin's mom, Bridget Connelly." We grew up here, been a member here all his life. He's always been a fan and come to every tournament."

Connelly, 2014 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Sam Burns, Brad Dalke and Davis Riley were named co-recipients of the AT&T Byron Nelson Award on May 29. The honor recognizes junior golf’s top-performing athletes who demonstrate strong character, consistent sportsmanship, a commendable academic background and a commitment to serving others.

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Steven Bowditch of Paragian, Australia, took home top honors at the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson, his second win on the PGA TOUR, by four strokes with a tournament total 18-under-par 259. Several AJGA alumni had strong performances at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Dallas at Las Colinas with three alumni landing in the top 10. Scott Pinckney finished in a three-way tie for second while Jon Curran, a Rolex Junior All American and four-time AJGA champion, finished T6, and Dustin Johnson placed T8.

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On May 31, the Rex Hospital Open had an exciting finish resulting in a three-way playoff after Kyle Thompson, Patton Kizzire and Miguel Angel Carballo finished at 17-under-par 267. Thompson became the first player in Web.com Tour history to win an event three times, after making birdie on the second playoff hole at TPC Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Five AJGA alumni placed in the top-10 at the annual Web.com Tour event. Kizzire, a Rolex Junior All-American and two-time AJGA champion, carded a 17-under-par 267 placing T2 with fellow AJGA alum Drew Scott, who landed at T4 with a 16-under-par 268. Chase Wright, the 2005 AJGA Andover Open champion, carded a 15-under-par 269 to finish at T6, followed by Brad Schneider and Todd Baek, who finished at T8 with a 14-under-par 270. 

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Anna Nordqvist, a member of the 2005 European PING Junior Solheim Cup team, finished at 8-under-par 205 to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer in Galloway, New Jersey. Of the top-10 finishers at the event, eight are AJGA alumni.

Anna

Three-time AJGA champion and Rolex Junior All-American, Kelly Shon placed T3, and Morgan Pressel, 2005 Rolex Junior Player of the Year and 12-time AJGA champion, placed T3. Austin Ernst placed T5, along with Inbee Park, a five-time Rolex Junior All American and 10-time AJGA champion. Hee-Young Park, 2015 AJGA tournament host Shan Shan Feng, Moriya Jutanugarn and Kim Kaufman landed in a six-way tie for 10th.

 Follow other news with #AJGAAlumni. 

#AJGAAlumni in the headlines (May 11)

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By Laney Mullaney, AJGA Communications

Rickie Fowler defeated Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner in a playoff to earn his biggest career win on Sunday at THE PLAYERS Championship. Playing well throughout the first three days of the tournament Fowler shot two consecutive 3-under-par 69s and a 1-under-par 71. He earned himself a spot in the playoff by shooting 6-under-par on his last six holes, for a 5-under-par 67 and a 12-under-par total. His spectacular play was highlighted by three birdies (including two in the playoff) on the infamous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.

This victory brings Fowler to his career-high ranking of No. 8 in the world and marks his second victory on the PGA TOUR. During the 2014 season he became the third player in history to finish in the top-five in all four majors in a single year, following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods and fellow Leadership Links supporter Jack Nicklaus.

Fowler turned pro in 2009 after an amateur career that included being the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world for a combined 36 weeks in 2007 and 2008 and two appearances on the victorious U.S. Walker Cup Team. He also earned five individual amateur titles, including a Big 12 Championship while at Oklahoma State University.

During the press conference after his win on Sunday, Fowler spoke about the time he birdied the first seven holes in his semifinal match against Peter Uihlein at the 2006 Polo Golf Junior Classic. He said it was one of the few times he remembered having a streak as good as the one that helped him claim THE PLAYERS Championship win.

It is creating memories like the one he shared during the press conference that has Fowler continuing his support of the AJGA. He will be returning to his partnership with the Leadership Links program for the second year, where he will spend a day golfing with the program’s top fundraisers. 

At THE PLAYERS Championship, Fowler was joined by several other AJGA alumni in the field. Justin Thomas, currently in his first year on the PGA TOUR, carded a third-round 65, firing 10 birdies to set the TPC Sawgrass record for most birdies in one round. Thomas was one of five players who have The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf on their AJGA resumes, including Jordan Spieth, Morgan Hoffmann, Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka.

On the Symetra Tour, Alejandra Llaneza earned her first victory on Sunday by winning the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic. Llaneza, a University of Arizona alumnae who earned three top-10 finishes during her time in the AJGA, took home a one-stroke victory over Casey Grice. Grice, a 2010 Rolex Junior All-American, earned two AJGA victories before playing golf at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Sam Burns of Shreveport, Louisiana, and Austin Connelly of  Irving, Texas, currently ranked No. 1 and 3 in the Polo Golf Rankings, teamed up for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, and became the youngest team to make it to the semifinals. The former Wyndham Cup West teammates are both class of 2015 graduates, who have signed a National Letter of Intent to play college golf. Burns will play at Louisiana State University and Connelly at the University of Arkansas.

More memories for Kaufman at Victoria National

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SmileyKaufman

Smylie Kaufman accepted the 2008 USGA-AJGA Presidents' Leadership Award at Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Ind.

By Chris Richards, AJGA Communications

When Smylie Kaufman visits Newburgh, Indiana, he accepts trophies and smiles for the camera.

Kaufman picked up his first career Web.com Tour victory Sunday at Victoria National Golf Club, the same course he played during the 2008 Rolex Tournament of Champions. It’s also where he accepted the 2008 USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award for his outstanding leadership and volunteer efforts with the Kids vs. Cancer campaign, a fundraiser that he and his brother, Luckie, founded in their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

The Kids vs. Cancer campaign started as a simple idea. Seeing neighborhood children battling cancer, Smylie and Luckie sought to raise money for the local children’s hospital in memory of all cancer patients.

“I didn’t think it was fair that they would get cancer and not really get to have a good childhood going through high school,” a 17-year-old Smylie said in 2008.

Seven years later, and after playing college golf and graduating from Louisiana State University, Kaufman returned to Victoria National and made his sixth Web.com start of the year at the United Leasing Championship presented by PTI . He built a four-stroke lead after firing a course-record 64 in the third round, and his 10-under-par total was five strokes better than the field by tournament's end.

Finalists for the 2015 USGA-AJGA Presidents' Leadership Award will be announced May 13, and the Award recipients will be announced May 20 . Click here to read the complete story from 2008 about Kaufman's Kids vs. Cancer campaign.

#AJGAAlumni in the headlines (April 8)

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By Brett Polachek, AJGA Communications

J.B. Holmes won his fourth PGA TOUR event at the Shell Houston Open in a playoff against AJGA alumni Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner. Spieth played well all week, but fell short by bogeying the first playoff hole. Wagner had a par putt to extend the playoff to a third hole, but failed to convert. After his win, Holmes jumped 13 spots to No. 3 in the FedEx Cup Standings.

Holmes has started the 2014-15 season off with a bang with a win and four top-10s all coming before the Masters tournament, capping off the best start in his 11-year professional career. Holmes, a University of Kentucky alumnus, played in four AJGA events with his best finish (T4) at the 1999 Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior.

Spieth won five tournaments, three were Invitationals, over his five-year AJGA career. The three-time, first-team Rolex Junior All-American was awarded Rolex Junior Player of the Year in 2009. Spieth went on to attend the University of Texas where he helped lead his team to a NCAA National Championship.

Lincicome,BrittanyTbird9

Brittany Lincicome won the ANA Inspiration, the LPGA’s first major of the year, in a three-hole playoff against fellow AJGA alumna Stacy Lewis. The victory caps Lincicome’s sixth LPGA victory and second LPGA major. She played four years with the AJGA before turning pro at the age of 19. During Lincicome’s AJGA career, she racked up 20 top-10 finishes, four AJGA victories and five Rolex Junior All-America Awards.  

Britney lincicome

Rounding out the top-10 were 12-time AJGA winner and 2005 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Morgan Pressel in third, Arizona State University alumna Anna Nordqvist T4 and three-time Rolex Junior All-American Lexi Thompson in seventh.

Sixteen-year old and current AJGA junior Haley Moore shot 67 and was the final player to make the cut, also inspiring national golf news headlines on Friday, April 3 in doing so.

Moore