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2008 staff predictions: Girls

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GOLFWEEK STAFF

Player of the year

Martin: Kimberly Kim. The last time she finished outside the top 10 in an AJGA event was the Ping Invitational in October 2006. She has a better winning percentage than Tiger Woods over the past 52 weeks. Also keep an eye on Alexis Thompson who’s hitting the ball longer after an offseason growth spurt and opened her AJGA season with a five-stroke victory.

Mirocha: Kimberly Kim is a no-brainer. So instead of rehashing why she’s primed for a huge year, I’m going to tell you who’s going to finish second: Danielle Frasier. She might be more motivated than anyone else after recovering from heart surgery two years ago. Her game is maturing and the results will come this year. She finished second at the season-opening Heather Farr earlier this month.

McCarthy: Jennifer Johnson. The Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings are doing an injustice to Johnson, who is underrated at No. 8 considering the 2007 campaign she put together. She won three times, including twice over strong fields at the Mission Hills Desert Junior – where she shot a final-round 66 to win by three – and Ping Phoenix Junior – where she went 70-66-68 to win by three. Johnson ended the year with a T-3 at The Ping. Though she has been mediocre in invitationals, look for her to contend – and win – throughout the season.

Soderstrom: Kimberly Kim. This year isn’t about if she will win, it’s more about if she can top the 2007 season of Vicky Hurst, who won three consecutive invitationals.

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Sleeper picks

Martin: Sally Watson. She’ll start her summer at the Curtis Cup, then use that experience against older competition to pick up an invitational victory.

Mirocha: Stacey Kim. She had just one top-20 finish in invitationals last year. That will change.

McCarthy: Doris Chen. She has seen limited AJGA action but recently picked up her second title when she won the Mizuno Junior at Innisbrook. She has struggled in AJGA invitationals, but at 15, has time for her game to mature and contending on a regular basis will speed up the process.

Soderstrom: Brittany Altomare. As a Massachusetts native, my gut feeling here is to go with the fellow Bay Stater, considering we don’t see too many of them in the top 50 of the rankings often.

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Story of the year

Martin: Kimberly Kim wins second Women’s Am. Kim, who was exempt into last year’s Women’s British Open at St. Andrews but couldn’t play because it conflicted with the Amateur, will take advantage of this opportunity to play the Old Course and have a perfect record. Then she’ll win her second Am at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club, about two hours from Pumpkin Ridge, where she won the 2006 championship.

Mirocha: Alexis Thompson turns pro. The 13-year-old will win the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur, then join the play-for-pay ranks.

McCarthy: Kristen Park repeats as U.S. Girls’ Junior champion. At 15, Park is no stranger to success on a national level, and her game will only mature as she gets older. Considering she had never played match play before last year’s championship, Park can only perform better the second time around. Only two girls have won consecutive U.S. Junior championships in history, Judy Eller (1957 and 1958) and Hollis Stacy (1969, 1970, and 1971). Park could make history this year.

Soderstrom: Kimberly Kim goes undefeated. Kim’s head-to-head record is 702-22-7 over the last 52 weeks. Think about that. Perhaps we will end up seeing that undefeated season after all, only on the girls’ junior golf scene instead.

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