By Rex Hoggard
The road to American Junior Golf Association participation became much more inviting Jan. 24 with the release of the organization’s new performance-based entry system.
The system, a complex 12-page outline the AJGA has been developing for more than a year, awards access into open events based on finishes in specific tournaments. It also puts an official end to the organization’s oft-maligned resume system, a subjected method the AJGA had been phasing out slowly.
This creates a clear, objective criteria,” said Peter Ripa, the Braselton, Ga.-based association’s chief operations officer.
Entry into one of the AJGA’s open tournaments in 2002-’03 will be based on four categories:
Fully exempt: An AJGA member may earn fully exempt status, and entry into a maximum of five open tournaments, via top finishes in what the organization considers the nation’s top events. Included in this list is the U.S. Junior Amateur, Western Junior and Junior Heritage Classic as well as some of the AJGA’s major tournaments.
Tournament exemptions: Players can earn up to three exemptions with a victory, for example, at an Ashworth Preseason/Postseason Junior Series tournament. A top-100 ranking in the Golfweek/Titleist Performance Index also can earn a player two exemptions.
Performance stars: A player earns his or her first star upon joining the AJGA and a soon-to-be senior (class of 2004) is given an additional star. Four stars for boys (three for girls) is worth one tournament exemption.
In an intriguing move to unite the various national junior tours, additional stars can be collected via top-five finishes in certain International Junior Golf Tour, Future Collegians World Tour, Plantations Junior Golf Tour, Southeastern Junior Golf Tour and Royal Canadian Golf Association tournaments.
Open qualifying: In 2002, the AJGA held 36 qualifying events for open tournaments. This season there will be a qualifier for each open tournament with the top 10 percent earning an exemption.
Another crucial element of the new system is the use of state junior tournaments.
A top-10 finish in the Texas, California and Florida juniors or a top-five finish in any other state junior is good for one tournament exemption.