2002: Floridians shine in Junior Rankings

Two Florida players have finished atop the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings.

James Vargas of Miami and In-Bee Park of Eustis, Fla., finished the 2001-02 season ranked No. 1. However, each took a different path to being named Golfweek’s Player of the Year.

Vargas did his damage early in the season. Park used consistent play throughout the year, capped by a late-season victory that vaulted her to the top.

Vargas, who finished his junior career with seven ranked events shot 15-under 129 in stroke-play qualifying at the AJGA Polo Golf Junior Classic last November before losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Spencer Levin.

In his next event, he shot 4-under 212 to win the Doral Publix Junior Classic in December. One week later, he shot a 23-under 261 to win the Orange Bowl Junior International Championship by 11 shots.

“I worked really hard on my game at the end of the summer (in 2001), and it just started clicking,” said Vargas, now a freshman at the University of Florida. “I was confident and was able to put up some good numbers.”

In all, he played 22 rounds and recorded a scoring average of 69.5. Vargas had eight rounds in the 60s, including a 63 and three 64s. He had six top 10s, and his only finish out of the top 10 was 15th. His overall head-to-head winning percentage was .948.

Vargas completed each of the last three seasons ranked in the top 10 of the Golfweek Junior Rankings. He finished the 2000-2001 season No. 8 and was No. 4 at the conclusion of the 1999-00 season. Finishing No. 1 was something for which Vargas was aiming.

“It’s been my goal and something I have worked on the last couple of years, and to be able to pull it off was satisfying,” said Vargas.

The Korean-born Park spent most of the year in the top 10, but it was not until her July 27 victory at the U.S. Junior Girls’ Championship that the Eustis, Fla., resident took over the top spot, where she remained the rest of the summer.

Park, 14, became the second-youngest player, behind Aree Song Wongluekiet, to claim the national title. Park also captured the AJGA Rolex Girls’ Junior Championship June 14. Along with her two victories, she placed in the top 10 in all nine ranked events in which she participated.

Even more impressive may have been her 72.3 scoring average in 28 rounds. Park recorded seven rounds in the 60s, with a low of 66 in the opening round of the Westfield PGA Junior Series in July.

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