5 things: Werge manages wind at Golfweek Jr.
ORLANDO, Fla. – While opponents fought an increasingly strong wind Saturday at the Golfweek Junior Invitational, Johan Werge simply tweaked his game plan, then watched his new strategy pay dividends on a lengthy Shingle Creek Golf Course.
“I changed my ball position before the round and it worked,” Werge shrugged after shooting a 3-under 69 that left him in second place.
As he hit low darts around the 6,969-yard layout, Werge built an early lead with birdies at Nos. 2 and 4. He gave shots back at Nos. 6 and 7 before holing out from 60 yards at the par-4 11th for birdie.
“I made some good shots, they gave me confidence,” said Werge, a student at Gary Gilchrist Academy. He trails only James Yoon, an 18-year-old who has verbally committed to UC-Berkeley. Yoon, who also won the Scott Robertson Memorial in May, shot 4-under 68.
A win tomorrow would make a nice 16th birthday present for Werge, but he isn’t putting much pressure on himself. There are no plans to celebrate the big day other than playing golf, which seemed to suit the amicable junior just fine.
“Maybe dinner,” he added, before returning to the range for more fine-tuning.
2.) Tight schedule: Annie Park has hardly stopped moving in the past six months thanks to a competition schedule that included all of the major USGA and AJGA events this season and then some. She managed to squeeze in a lesson with swing coach Sean Foley right before last month’s USGA Women’s State Team Championship (where New York finished T-9 and Park finished T-4), but other than that hadn’t talked to Foley since a phone conversation after the Women's Amateur Public Links and an in-person visit in February.
“I’m working on my swing – as you can see my shots are all over the place,” Park joked after an even-par 72 that left her tied for the lead with Kristine Odaiyar.
Park fought a left-to-right ball flight with her irons for much of the day, and said a prevailing slice wind didn’t help matters. She was 2 under on the round before finishing bogey-bogey.
Park attends public school in her home of Levittown, N.Y., and says she already has missed about 10 days of class this fall. The 16-year-old, who thinks an eventual college major will probably be math-related, is enrolled in an AP course this semester and also is beginning to think about taking the SAT. After that it’s time for college visits. She’s already taken an unofficial to Duke, and has plans to also visit Vanderbilt soon.
3.) Up-and-down day: Michaela Owen can attest to the scoreability of Shingle Creek. The 14-year-old had six birdies in her round of 1-over 73.
Owen made five birdies on her first nine (which was actually the back), but also threw in three bogeys. She didn’t make her first par until No. 17. She hit it out of bounds at No. 2, a reachable par 5, made another double at No. 8, then got up and down for par at No. 9.
“The past few years I really haven’t made as many birdies as I usually do,” she said.
Owen put her approach shots right next to the pin for the majority of the day but fought a right-to-left move with her driver that’s abnormal for her game. It only got her in trouble at No. 2, where OB lurks just left of the fairway. Owen also had a bag full of new TaylorMade R-11s in play for the first time Saturday.
“I was really terrified coming in here,” she said of the change.
Owen is part of a six-player tie at 1 over.
4.) Next generation: It was overcast and breezy by the time players in the final groups signed their scorecards Saturday, but nearly every player still cycled from the scoring table to the nearby practice facilities. Barely noticeable were the two professionals who blended in with the rest of their peers.
Ginger Howard, the 17-year-old who won the second stage of LPGA Q-School, met younger sister Robbi immediately after the round with her own bag over her shoulder and two sacks of range balls. Ginger is honing her game for the final stage of Q-School at LPGA International at the end of the month, while Robbi, 16, went to address the six three-putts that drove her score up to a 6-over 78.
Jessica Korda, runner-up at last year’s Q-School, was playing chaperone to younger sister Nelly, 13, and spent some time supervising on the putting green.
The thing that seemed to stick with both players the most after a long and chilly – by Florida standards – day in the crowd?
Being a spectator is not nearly as exciting.
5.) Return to the injured list: Cindy Feng withdrew before the beginning of the round with a hip injury. At No. 37 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings, Feng carried the second-best ranking in the girls’ field (behind Park).
The 15-year-old also battled a wrist injury last spring, which forced her to sit out of the AJGA’s Annika Invitational.