AUSTIN, Texas – Days after competing in the PGA Championship, where he missed the cut, Jordan Spieth returned to his college town Tuesday to host his first AJGA event, the Under Armour/Jordan Spieth Championship at the University of Texas golf course. Spieth is one of a handful of Tour players hosting such events, but at 21, the closest in age to the field.
Spieth, the 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, is only five years removed from winning the AJGA’s Rolex Player of the Year award in 2009 – the same year he won his first of two U.S. Junior Amateur titles. He played, and won, his final AJGA event in 2011, the CB&I Boys Championship at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas.
A look at some of the notable players in Spieth’s inaugural AJGA event:
Colin Kober, Southlake, Texas: In Texas, high-school golf is a big deal, and few should know that better than Kober. The 16-year-old was a member of the Southlake Carroll team that finished four shots behind Austin Westlake in April at the 5A Texas State High School Championship. He was 19th indivually after rounds of 74-75 at the par-70 Onion Creek Club, also in Austin. Last month, Kober’s name was whispered around Golfweek’s Midwest Junior Invitational. He was the player to post an opening 1-under 71 at Cog Hill’s Dubsdread Course, former site of the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship and before that, the Western Open. Kober continues to go low: Earlier this month, he finished third at the AJGA’s Goodman Networks Junior, thanks in large part to an opening 67.
Chandler Phillips, Huntsville, Texas: Phillips is ranked No. 3 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings among players in Texas, and has an overall junior ranking of 28. The 17-year-old will stay in state when he graduates at the end of this academic year – he has verbally committed to Texas A&M. Phillips’ game has branched out this summer. He qualified for his first AJGA invitational in June, the FootJoy Invitational (T-29), and also played in the Junior PGA Championship last month (T-32).
Tobin Niblett, Austin, Texas: They don’t come any tougher than local player Niblett, who won the AJGA’s Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award in 2013. Niblett suffered a serious break in his left femur in 2009, which doctors thought would inhibit growth in that leg. Niblett, a man of extreme faith, underwent an excruciating leg-lengthening process and dozens of subsequent physical-therapy sessions to correct the damage, all to get back on the golf course. Now healthy, Niblett has set out to raise funds for The Paley Limb Lengthening Institute in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he received his treatment.
Annika Clark, Highlands, Texas: Clark’s breakthrough came earlier this spring, when she co-medaled at a qualifier for the North Texas LPGA designed specifically for Texas juniors. It was Clark’s first LPGA event, and though she missed the cut, went on to win the AJGA’s BillboardFactory.com Junior Championship in June before playing in the Rolex Tournament of Champions (MC) and the U.S. Girls’ Junior (T-98). Born in 1997 when namesake Annika Sorenstam was the top-ranked female golfer, Clark is living up to the name.
Brooke McDougald, The Woodlands, Texas: The 17-year-old McDougald has benefitted from growing up in the golf-rich area of The Woodlands, where the girls golf team has won four 5A titles in the past 25 years. McDougald helped guide the Highlanders to a third-place finish last season, and was T-11 individually (that field included Austin Lake Travis’ Kristen Gillman, U.S. Women’s Amateur champion). McDougald, who has three top-10 finishes in AJGA events so far this year, has signed with TCU for the fall of 2015.
Rose Huang, Honolulu, Hawaii: Huang calls Hawaii “home” these days (she played on Hawai’s team at the USGA’s Women’s State Team Championship in 2013), but she is originally from China, which makes her part of the influx of young Chinese women lately making a big impact on the game. Huang advanced to the quartefinals at the U.S. Girls’ Junior a month ago, then went on to tie for 11th at the Junior PGA Championship. Huang, No. 36 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings, will play for BYU beginning next fall.