Preview: LPGA's Vicky Hurst hosts AJGA event
After appearing in Arizona and Florida, this year’s AJGA Under Armour/Vicky Hurst Championship finds itself situated in Choudrant, La., at Squire Creek CC.
Hosted by LPGA professional Vicky Hurst, the tournament is in its third year on the AJGA schedule and has attracted talented juniors throughout the nation and from overseas, including France, Guatemala, India, South Africa, South Korea and Venezuela.
Part of the attraction to this tournament is the “Vicky Hurst” name, particularly among the significant number of talented female golfers drawn to the tournament. According to tournament director Annie Giangrosso, Hurst has been an integral part of the championship since its inception in 2010.
“Vicky is one of the best tournament sponsors,” said Giangrosso. “The first time we had the tournament, she was there the entire week, very hands-on. It was like once she got onsite, her junior days came back to her, and the kids really appreciate her involvement. She’s not far off from them age-wise, so there’s a connection.”
While the field is peppered with top juniors – including five players who have signed National Letters of Intent and two Rolex Junior All-Americans – there are several players to keep an eye on as this 36-hole event unfolds over the course of the weekend.
Players to watch:
• Maxime Blandin, Golfweek/Sagarin-ranked No. 53, 2012
Blandin, of Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., tied for third at last year’s Under Armour/Vicky Hurst Championship. He has recorded four second-place finishes in FCWT events, and won the 2011 FCWT Champions Gate. Blandin has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the SMU men’s team.
• Rigel Fernandes, No. 51, 2013
Fernandes, of Mangalore, India, has had several recent wins in 2012, including the FCWT Saddlebrook Resort Golf and the FCWT at Feather Sound. In 2011 he won events on the FCWT and Hurricane Junior Tour and qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur. Fernandes has given a verbal commitment to play college golf at South Florida.
• Kristian Caparros, No. 8, 2015
Caparros, of Miami Lakes, Fla., won two AJGA events in 2011 (the Junior All-Star at Stonelick Hills and the Genesis Junior at White Beeches). He most recently finished T-3 at the 2012 AJGA Junior at Savannah Quarters, and has given a verbal commitment to play college golf for Florida.
• Summar Roachell, No. 16, 2013
Roachell, of Conway, Ark., recently finished second at the Under Armour/Hunter Mahan Championship after participating in a playoff. In 2011, she advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior, won the Bubba Conlee Junior and finished T-2 at the AJGA Genesis Shootout. Roachell was a captain’s pick for the victorious U.S. quad at last year’s Junior Solheim Cup, and has given a verbal commitment to play college golf at Arkansas.
• Mika Liu, No. 2, 2017
Liu, of Bradenton, Fla. recently won her first AJGA event, the 2012 AJGA Junior at Savannah Quarters. She finished 16th at last year’s Under Armour/Vicky Hurst Championship, her first appearance in the tournament.
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Five questions with Vicky Hurst
After getting Hurst’s take on her involvement in the organization that’s given so much to her, we weren’t surprised that the AJGA would want to be associated with such a class act. Even though her schedule prevents her from being at the Under Armour/Vicky Hurst Championship this year (Hurst is in Mobile, Ala., competing in the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic), she’s still invested in the tournament.
1. You won seven AJGA events as a junior, and only placed outside the top 10 four times in 18 tournaments. How did your past involvement with the AJGA influence your professional career?
Hurst: They were huge. I wasn’t really competitive with golf until I started competing in AJGA tournaments when I was 15. A lot of the other kids I’d play with had been playing in national events since they were 10 or 12 years old. I wasn’t like that, so it challenged me to practice harder and step up my game. Once I turned 17, I was doing really well with AJGA tournaments, and it was then that I figured I could play professionally. I was able to wrap my mind around the fact that I could actually make this a career, so I wouldn’t be here where I am today without the AJGA.
2. Discuss your involvement in the AJGA Under Armour/Vicky Hurst tournament.
Hurst: This is my third year hosting this tournament. I’m a huge fan of the AJGA and glad to be a part of it – they’ve done so much for me, so when they came to me with this opportunity I jumped at the chance. The first year I did as much as I could; I met the kids and did a clinic. I had only just come off the AJGA tournament circuit a couple of years prior and I knew some of the kids who were playing, so it was fun for me. I’m sad I can’t make it to the tournament this year with the LPGA schedule. The AJGA does a great job so it’s cool to have an event with my name on it.
3. The AJGA takes pace of play pretty seriously. How has that and other AJGA ideology impacted your game and junior golf in general?
Hurst: They get down to it when it comes to rules and etiquette. Before I started playing in AJGA tournaments I knew how to act on the course (whether I was playing good or bad), but I did learn a lot about rules and etiquette through them. Their “strictness” is so great for shaping the kids to become great people, and that’s who the AJGA is.
4. What’s your best memory from your AJGA days?
Hurst: Wow, I have so many memories and great experiences from my junior days. I really enjoyed the little competitions and fun games that the AJGA would have for us after the tournaments. You’d really get to know the other players; the AJGA always took good care of us. One thing they did was “Care Fore the Course,” where they would take us out after the tournaments to fix up the golf course by filling in divots, fixing pitch marks on the green, etc. I had fun doing that.
5. Do you see yourself as a role model for junior golfers (specifically girls) who want to make a name for themselves in golf?
Hurst: Yes, so I do my best on and off the course to give back. I’m still so young (21 years old, almost 22), so it wasn’t too long ago I was playing in the AJGA. I still want to make my mark on the LPGA, but as long as the AJGA likes having me then I love being associated with this tournament.