Ariya Jutanugarn, Golfweek’s top-ranked junior, has garnered Rolex Junior Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive year. Matthew NeSmith earned the same honors on the boys’ side.
Jutanugarn, of Bangkok, Thailand, becomes the fifth girl to earn the honor in back-to-back seasons. The 16-year-old played a loaded junior, amateur and professional schedule this year, highlighted by victories at the AJGA Thunderbird International, AJGA Rolex Girls, Women’s Western Amateur, Canadian Women’s Amateur and the PGA Junior Championship. Most recently, Jutanugarn played the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia on Oct. 11-14, finishing T-9. She will enter Ladies European Tour Qualifying School in December.
NeSmith, 19, recently began his freshman season at South Carolina as one of the most promising incoming freshmen in the country. He is the second South Carolina native to be named Rolex Player of the Year, following good friend Cody Proveaux, who took those honors in 2011.
NeSmith won four junior tournaments in the past year, three of which were AJGA Invitationals. NeSmith won the Polo Golf Junior Classic at the end of the 2011, and also the FootJoy Invitational and Rolex Tournament of Champions in 2012. NeSmith also won the Jones Cup Junior in 2011, and made his first pro start at the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship earlier this fall courtesy of his FootJoy victory.
Jutanugarn and NeSmith will be honored Nov. 18 during the Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The awards ceremony also will honor the achievements of the Rolex Junior All-America teams, HP Scholastic Junior All-America teams and Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award.