With the 2013 junior golf season now in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2014. In this roundtable discussion, our Julie Williams (@golfweekjules), Brentley Romine (@golfweekbromine) and Cassie Stein (@golfweekcassie) look at what we can expect this upcoming season in junior golf.
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1. In 2014, Brad Dalke, 16, will celebrate the fourth anniversary of his college commitment to Oklahoma. He has won three AJGA invitationals and a U.S. Kids World Championship. What’s next?
Julie: Without question, Dalke’s resume is missing a USGA championship. He’s an early favorite for the 2014 U.S. Junior, and the real beauty is he has two more chances to win that title. That and a good finish at the U.S. Amateur could mean a Walker Cup berth down the road, too.
Cassie: Time flies, eh? Dalke will rack up more wins this season on the AJGA circuit, so a spot on the Junior Ryder Cup team is on the horizon, but he’ll need to add a USGA championship to his resume soon.
Brentley: Sure, Dalke has three career AJGA invitational titles, but we still haven’t seen him consistently contend in big events like Scottie Scheffler did in 2013. If Dalke continues to progress like we’ve been seeing, I could see Dalke winning the U.S. Junior (the 2014 U.S. Junior is being held at the Club at Carlton Woods, where Dalke won the 2013 HP Boys), making match play at the U.S. Amateur, and adding another AJGA invitational or two. I know qualifying for the U.S. Open will be another one of Dalke’s goals for 2014, as well.
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2. The Junior Ryder Cup travels to Blairgowrie Golf Club in Perthshire, Scotland next year. Can the Americans win the Cup for a fourth consecutive time?
Julie: Considering the talent that went out the door in 2013 (or rather, to college), it could be tough for the Americans, especially on foreign soil. Samantha Wagner could be an important returner for the girls, and it will take a lot of heart from the rest of the team. They won’t be the favorite.
Cassie: More and more talented junior players are coming from Europe these days. It’ll be tough, but veterans like Samantha Wagner could be important for the U.S. to retain the cup in Scotland.
Brentley: Why not? I know the U.S. will have to replace a ton of talent from 2012, but the Europeans will have to replace some key pieces, as well, including current college freshmen Gavin Moynihan and Matthias Schwab. I could see players like Davis Riley, Jorge Garcia, Brad Dalke, Andrea Lee and Bethany Wu stepping up for the Americans.
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3. Yueer Cindy Feng, Golfweek’s No. 2-ranked junior girl, turned professional instead of going to college. What does her 2014 look like?
Julie: Cindy and father Delin Feng have had their mind set on a professional career since the family moved from China to the U.S. Cindy, 17, closed an accomplished junior and amateur career when she turned professional after the second stage of LPGA Q-School. A T-23 at the final stage (one shot out of full status) should result in a handful of LPGA starts next season.
Cassie: She’ll get a bunch of stars on the LPGA after finishing T-23 at Q-School – a shot out of full LPGA status. But by the time her 2014 is over, I believe she’ll have made enough money to have full status, maybe even a win.
Brentley: Cindy has the game to earn a spot on the LPGA by season’s end, and I think we’ll see her notch enough top 10s this year with partial status to do that.
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4. Will Grimmer shot 59 at Pinehurst No. 1 (set up at 6,089 yards), and eventually finished fourth at the North and South Junior Championship. Was it a fluke, or will a junior post another sub-60 round in 2014?
Julie: I certainly wouldn’t call it a fluke, but a 59 certainly isn’t an everyday occurrence in junior golf. Grimmer should be quite proud of that round, and I don’t know that we’ll see another one of those for awhile – my guess is not in 2014.
Cassie: No, no fluke here. I feel when anyone shoots a 59, it’s earned. Do I think we’ll see one in 2014? Sure, why not? I think Brad Dalke has one in him.
Brentley: The course definitely had more than its fair share of birdie holes, but it’s not easy to shoot 59 no matter what course you play. You’re not going to see the top juniors shoot 59 at the U.S. Junior or any AJGA invitationals in 2014, but I think one is still possible. I’ll make a bold prediction here and say Sam Horsfield fires a 59 at a Florida State Golf Association event in 2014.
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5. The AJGA shaved more than six minutes from its average pace of play in 2013 (to 4 hours, 17 minutes). Will players move even faster next year?
Julie: The AJGA’s pace-of-play guidelines are rigid, and they’ve been very effective in keeping players moving. The game needs that. I don’t think we’ll see another six-minute dive in 2014, but I believe juniors can shave a little more time of 2013’s average.
Cassie: How the AJGA sets up their pace-of-play guidelines are quite interesting, but very effect. The staff does a great job of getting these juniors around the course day in and day out. I don’t see why they can’t deduct four or five more minutes!
Brentley: They better! But in all seriousness, if anyone can get these kids to play faster, it’s the AJGA.