Samantha Marks had high expectations for herself entering her final AJGA tournament.
Marks, who won the Deutsche Bank Partners for Charity Shootout last year, was aiming to close her AJGA career with a second consecutive victory at the event, which was held July 17-19 at the Golf Club of Cape Cod in East Falmouth, Mass.
“You can’t just come in having won the previous year not expecting to win again,” said Marks, who would notch a one-shot, come-from-behind victory to cap her junior career on a winning note.
“I proved that I could do it last year when I won and I wanted to prove to myself that I could win again.”
Marks, who will play for North Carolina in the fall, was down by four strokes entering the final nine holes. She went 1 under on the back, finishing with the low final round of the day at 2 under.
“My goal was to win and I knew that I could win because I’ve been playing well,” Marks said. “It means a lot to end on a high note. I was a little sad. . . . I’m going to miss it.”
Marks was playing in her first tournament since missing the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open in early July. Her experience at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., has had a major impact on the way she approaches the game.
With a couple hundred fewer sets of eyes on her last week in Cape Cod, Marks was able to concentrate on having fun – not that she didn’t have fun playing in her first major, but “it was a little scary teeing off for the first time at the U.S. Open.”
“Coming back from that, it gives me a larger outlook on tournaments,” Marks said. “I mean, the U.S. Women’s Open, that’s as high as it gets. Playing in an AJGA event, it really is all about having fun. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.”
So when Marks found the rough or missed a putt – things she rarely did last week – she was able to brush it off.
“That worked well for me,” she said.
Marks, a recent Circle Christian graduate from Orlando, Fla., leaves for school on Aug. 18. Her first college practice will start soon after that.
“I can’t wait,” Marks said. “The team is awesome. All the girls get along really well. . . . I’m sure we’ll have no problem contending for a national championship.”
Marks gave herself a couple days off after winning her last junior tournament, but she was back to practicing Tuesday. Marks said continuing the work ethic she learned from her parents, especially when she’s on her own, will be key to success at the next level.
“It’s what you do outside of what’s mandatory that sets you apart,” Marks said. “I have to rely on myself to have the same dedication.”
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ENDING A DROUGHT: Bethany Wu won the first AJGA tournament she played in back in 2009, when she finished first at the Preseason Junior at Oak Valley.
Now after three years, she’s back in the win column, claiming the AJGA Junior at Centennial Golf Club in Medford, Ore. Wu, of Diamond Bar, Calif., shot 67-68-69 to finish at 12-under 204 – five shots better than runners-up Simin Feng and Ziyi Wang.
“Before, I wouldn’t have confidence about winning because all the other girls were so much better,” Wu said. “Now that I have more confidence, I think I can be at that level with them.”
Wu’s increased confidence likely is due in part to an improved short game.
“I changed my putting style, I’m using a line now and that’s been working a lot better for the past two tournaments,” Wu said.
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OTHER WINNERS: Lindsey Weaver capped her AJGA career with a victory at the Under Armour/Jeff Overton Junior July 19 at The Ledges in Huntsville, Ala. Weaver, of Scottsdale, Ariz., shot 6-under 207 to win by three strokes over runner-up Janie Jackson and 13 strokes over third-place Haley Austin. . . . Sarah Moore, of Burkburnett, Texas, shot 5-over 221 to claim the Aaron’s/Bob Estes Abilene Junior at Abilene (Texas) CC. . . . Ailin Li, of Windermere, Fla., took the Nebraska Junior at Quarry Oaks in Ashland, Neb., with a three-round total of 8-over 221. . . . Harley Dubsky, of Valparaiso, Ind., finished at 2-over 218 to win the Midwest Junior Players at Hilton Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale, Ill.
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LOOKING AHEAD: Six AJGA-recognized tournaments are already underway this week, highlighted by the Wyndham Cup at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla., and the Vaughn Taylor Championship at Jones Creek GC in Augusta, Ga. McKenzie Talbert and Alessandra Kutz are among those in the field at Jones Creek. . . Steve Marino will host his second AJGA event, the Under Armour/Steve Marino Championship, July 30-Aug. 2 at Bethesda (Md.) Country Club. . . . Also among the events taking place next week, the Bass Pro Shops/Payne Stewart Junior at Rivercut GC in Springfield, Mo., and the Junior PGA Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind., July 31-Aug. 3.