The 37th Junior PGA Championship kicks off July 31 at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind. The 72-hole event features a field of the top juniors in the country. Here are five girls and five boys to keep an eye on this week – some you’ve heard of and some that might surprise:
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1. Casie Cathrea: The last time Cathrea entered a junior tournament, the U.S. Girls’ Junior, it was practically in her backyard. Cathrea advanced to the quarterfinals at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif., where she fell to Ariya Jutanugarn in a fast-paced, birdie-slinging shootout that took not quite three hours. Cathrea is a fierce, long-hitting player who can go scary low when the situation calls for it.
2. Yueer Cindy Feng: The 16-year-old is on the rise after a string of injuries and fatigue kept her on the sidelines for the better part of last year. Lest you forget, Feng owns four AJGA invitational titles. Not a player to overlook.
3. Samantha Wagner: The Florida commit has the ability to maintain her focus on the golf course and make the most of an off day. She started the year with a second-round 67 at the Annika Invitational (eventually finishing T-14) and has a win and a top 10 in five AJGA starts since. Wagner, 15, fell to Cathrea at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, and enters the Junior PGA a week after helping the East team keep the Wyndham Cup.
4. Moriya Jutanugarn: It seems the older Jutanugarn’s accomplishments are sometimes overshadowed by her younger sister, who has made a habit of winning nearly every tournament she enters. But for those who haven’t been keeping an eye on the more outspoken sister, Moriya advanced to the quarterfinals at the North & South, qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open and finished runner-up to her sister at the Rolex Girls’ Junior, Women’s Western Amateur and Canadian Women’s Amateur.
5. Ariya Jutanugarn: See above. However, before winning in Canada by five shots, Ariya proved she is indeed human by losing in the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior to eventual champion Minjee Lee. Catch Ariya on a day when she’s running short of birdies, and she can be defeated.
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1. Brad Dalke: That Dalke asked to be put in the anchor position for his West team at last week’s Wyndham Cup – and loved that he had a chance at making the final putt for the win – says a lot about his personality. Dalke missed that putt and his team tied the title-defending East team, which kept the cup another year. Something says Dalke will hit the course running in Fort Wayne.
2. Beau Hossler: The words “U.S. Open” should convey everything there is to know about Hossler’s game. After finishing T-29 earlier this summer in his second consecutive U.S. Open start, Hossler proved he has game. An early exit at the U.S. Junior (in the Round of 32) doesn’t change that.
3. Jim Liu: There’s a similar theme here: Don’t put too much weight on Liu’s finish at the U.S. Junior. Five up after the first 18 holes, Liu lost to Andy Shim, 4 and 3. Still, Liu has already won that title, in 2010, and is Golfweek’s top-ranked junior. Beware of this young man.
4. Justin Pagila: In the week leading up to the Junior PGA, Pagila led his Northern California team to a 10th title at the Junior America’s Cup. He shot rounds of 67-66-70 and finished second individually to Callaway Junior World champion Rico Hoey. Pagila certainly is worth a look in Fort Wayne.
5. Andy Shim: The 17-year-old just won the U.S. Junior, and beat Jim Liu comeback-style to do it. Is there any more to say?