Golfweek Junior preview: Ready for Reunion
Editor’s note: For a full-field list, click here.
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Golfweek Junior Invitational
The scoop: All eyes will be on Brad Dalke, the 13-year-old Texan who earlier this summer gave a verbal commitment to Oklahoma. He is No. 1 in the 2016 class and No. 479 overall in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings. Earlier this summer, Dalke won his age division at the Callaway Junior World Championship and captured two Southwest Junior titles by a combined 31 strokes.
Georgia-bound Nick Reach posted three top-15 finishes on the AJGA this year, including a T-12 at the Rolex Tournament of Champions. Reach, who attends the Gary Gilchrist Academy in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., was a semifinalist at the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur. Another Gilchrist student, South African Jason Roets, also is in the field. He played six AJGA events (four invitationals) this season, with his best finish a T-13 at the AccuSport Championship in mid-August.
Keep an eye on: Sam Straka. Four months ago, Straka made a memorable run at the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions before collapsing in the final two rounds. Straka held a five-shot lead after two rounds at Blessings Golf Club, then shot 87-82 to finish T-26. Part of that disparity can be attributed to fatigue; Straka rushed to Arkansas after playing a 36-hole U.S. Junior qualifier near Atlanta. It’ll be interesting to see how the Georgia commit, No. 41 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings, plays during an event in which he is considered one of the favorites.
2001 Chanin Puntawong
2002 No event
2003 Jon McLean
2004 Peter Uihlein
2005 Rafael Lee
2006 Morgan Hoffmann
2007 Julian Suri
2008 Josh Eure
2009 Mike Miller
2001 Nicole Perrot
2002 No event
2003 Tiffany Chudy
2004 Jennie Arseneault
2005 Isabelle Lendl
2006 Elisa Aoki
2007 Stephanie Kim
2008 Stephanie Meadow
2009 Stephanie Meadow
Who will win: The boys’ field is more open than ever before, and lacks a standout player that fits the mold of past champions Peter Uihlein and Morgan Hoffmann. Still, look for Mikey Werenski to have a breakout week. He had three top-15 finishes on the AJGA this season, and is ranked No. 108 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings.
Short shots: David DeMarois, 14, of Brighton, Mich., needed a nine-hole playoff – and two career rounds – Aug. 22 to qualify for the Golfweek Junior Invitational. DeMarois defeated Nick Dennis to win a Golfweek Junior Series event at Treetops Resort, where he shot 2-under 138, the lowest two-day total of his career, to advance to the Invitational at Reunion. ... Christopher Petefish won the Golfweek Junior event at Longbow Golf Club on Sept. 26, the biggest victory of his career.
– Ryan Lavner
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The scoop: History can’t repeat itself this year at the Golfweek Junior Invitational, as two-time champion Stephanie Meadow has moved on to the college ranks, playing for Golfweek’s No. 2-ranked Alabama, no less. Doris Chen, the reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, headlines this year’s field with the highest Golfweek Junior Ranking (No. 12).
Aside from Chen, Robbi Howard, of nearby Bradenton, Fla., also is a name to watch. Howard has two top 10s in AJGA events this summer to her credit, and was on the bag for older sister Ginger at the U.S. Girls’ Junior.
Ri Hyang Park, who finished T-10 at last year’s event, returns this year with two more wins on the International Junior Golf Tour on her resume. She hasn’t finished worse than second in any IJGT event this year, and also won the AJGA’s Golf Pride Junior Classic in August.
Keep an eye on: Looking for a local favorite? Kristine Odaiyar, who hails from nearby Ocala, Fla., has never finished outside the top 10 in the nine Florida Junior Tour events she’s played in the past two years. Odaiyar also won the AJGA’s Preseason Junior at Ocala.
Who will win: Chen is a hard player to bet against, considering her tendency to play hole after hole without making a mistake. Since winning the Girls’ Junior, Chen took her game across the pond, winning three points for Team USA in the Junior Ryder Cup in October. She also finished T-9 in the AJGA’s Ping Invitational on Oct. 11.
Short shots: Minami Levonowich, who attends the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy, already has won two Golfweek Junior Series events. Levonowich won the event at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C., in October 2009, and won the event at Willbrook Plantation in Pawley’s Island, S.C., in August 2010. . . . Hally Leadbetter, the daughter of teaching professional David Leadbetter, has finished second and first in her first starts on the IMG Leadbetter Junior Golf Tour. . . . Katherine Gravel-Coursol won her U.S. Girls’ Junior qualifier in Victor, N.Y., this summer by nine shots with a 3-under 70. . . . Eight of the top 25 girls in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings for the state of Florida are in the field at Reunion.
– Julie Williams