Burgess, Sims win AJGA Hunter Mahan titles

Sierra Sims (left) and Ryan Burgess (right) won the AJGA Under Armour/Hunter Mahan Invitational titles after a weather delay on Sunday.

Sierra Sims (left) and Ryan Burgess (right) won the AJGA Under Armour/Hunter Mahan Invitational titles after a weather delay on Sunday.

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#NameYearStateRating
1Nicole Morales2014NY69.32
2Andrea Lee2016CA69.82
3Bethany Wu2015CA69.83
4Megan Khang2015MA70.01
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#NameYearStateRating
1Scott Scheffler2014TX67.35
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4Austin Connelly2015TX68.5
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PLANO, Texas – Last April, Ryan Burgess left Gleneagles Country Club with an obvious weakness: playing in the wind.

Burgess had entered the final round of the Under Armour/Hunter Mahan Championship just three shots off the lead and in the final group. His game fell apart that day in a strong Texas gale, and he fell all the way to T-12 with a final-round 81. The ordeal scared him.

“I couldn’t continue to play knowing that if there was any wind, I couldn’t play.”

A year later, Burgess is leaving Gleneagles with his first AJGA title. It changes the game in a lot of ways.

In his senior year at Torrey Pines High School (he practices at Rancho Santa Fe Country Club, not Torrey Pines, as he was quick to point out), Burgess had all but finished playing AJGA open events. It sits a lot better with the 17-year-old knowing that he’ll walk away from that era of his career with a title. He’s also looking forward to playing the invitationals. That and attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.

“It’s very important,” Burgess said of this victory. “I’ve never really played that well in AJGA events -- as well as I feel like I could have and should have.”

The Hunter Mahan is Burgess’ first AJGA top 10. He built a lead during the 36-hole Day 1 with rounds of 75-70 on the par-71 layout. After a four-hour weather delay Sunday morning, the final round was shortened to nine holes. Burgess shot an 3-over 37 to extend his margin of victory to three over runner-up Hayden Wood.

“You have to play smart off the tee and get on the green, the greens aren’t too hard to putt on,” he said of Gleneagles.

The past year’s progress shows Burgess is coachable, so it’s hard telling how much more he could grow as a player under SMU head coach Josh Gregory’s wing. Burgess picked the school for that very reason.

“I feel like I’m going to develop as a player there.”

• • •

For Sierra Sims, 2012 is shaping up to be a good year. Already, the 16-year-old has won two titles. The Hunter Mahan was her second consecutive -- she also won last week’s Goodman Networks Junior at Traditions. That was her first since 2009.

“It gives me confidence in my game and lets me know that I’m doing the right things,” Sims said.

Sims, 16, won on the second hole of sudden death with Summar Roachell, a Junior Solheim Cupper and U.S. Girls’ Junior quarterfinalist who was pegged as a favorite at the start of the week. Both players made par at the par-4 third, then Sims got up and down for a sandy par as Roachell bogeyed the par-3 fourth.

Impressive though that was, to even get into the playoff was the major feat of the day. Sims, a Florida commit, trailed Roachell by four shots Sunday morning, but shot 5-under 32 to catch Roachell. To take home another AJGA trophy is especially meaningful for Sims after spending a morning unsure if she would even get back on the course.

“At first I didn’t think we were going to play at all,” she said of the morning’s weather delay. “When the thunderstorms stopped I just came out here and I was just trying to play my best. I knew I was a lot behind the lead and I just wanted to do as best as I could.”

Sims has recently undergone swing changes that had a major effect on her accuracy. It’s allowed her to fire at pins, and leave the ball closer. A smooth putting stroke helps the cause, too.

“I’ve been putting well and it’s good to know that my game is doing well.”

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