Top 5 Polo Jr. matches of the last 5 years

(From top left, clockwise), Rickie Fowler, Vicky Hurst and Morgan Pressel.

Girls Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Andrea Lee2016CA68.03
2Kristen Gillman2016TX69.24
3Angel Yin2017CA70.08
4Clare Amelia Legaspi2016CA70.61
5Mariel Galdiano2016HI70.84

Boys Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Andy Zhang2016FL67.72
2Robin Wang2017FL67.96
3Brad Dalke2016OK68.62
4David Snyder2016TX69.73
5Cheng Jin2016Intl69.85

What do Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink, Paula Creamer and Grace Park all have in common? Each won the American Junior Golf Association’s Polo Golf Junior Classic and didn’t make our list of top five matches from the last five years. (None were eligible because they competed more than five years ago.)

Here’s our list, plus a bonus Tiger moment:

photo

Bjorn Akesson celebrates his 2007 victory.

When: 2007

Where: Reunion (Fla.) Golf Club

Who: Bjorn Akesson vs. David Chung, quarterfinals

Storyline: Down by four walking to the 13th tee, Akesson makes four consecutive birdies to tie match-play stalwart Chung, a former U.S. Junior runner-up. Akesson completes the comeback with a birdie on the 18th hole, sticking his 9-iron approach shot a foot from the pin. Akesson wins the event two days later, beating defending champion Morgan Hoffmann in the process.

They said it: “I went for the flags and tried to make birdies,” Akesson said. “That is the only way you will advance in match play.”

• • •

When: 2007

Where: Reunion (Fla.) Golf Club

Who: Vicky Hurst vs. Stephanie Kono, semifinals

Storyline: In the longest match in AJGA history, Hurst and Kono battle for 28 holes before Hurst narrowly pulls out the victory. The match is delayed by darkness after 22 holes and resumes the next morning with both players matching pars for five more holes. Hurst finally wins the marathon match with a par on the 28th hole and wins the event later in the afternoon.

They said it: “I didn’t want to have to wake up early and lose the match on the first hole,” Hurst said. “It was a great match – Stephanie and I were talking and laughing and just happy to be there.”

• • •

Reader poll

Which Polo Golf Junior Classic match do you think is the best of the last five years?

  • Bjorn Akesson vs. David Chung (2007 quarterfinals) 2%
  • Vicky Hurst vs. Stephanie Kono (2007 semifinals) 6%
  • Rickie Fowler vs. Peter Uihlein (2006 semifinals) 69%
  • Morgan Pressel vs. Julieta Granada (2004 semifinals) 11%
  • James Lee vs. David May (2004 finals) 13%

54 total votes.

When: 2006

Where: Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Club

Who: Rickie Fowler vs. Peter Uihlein, semifinals

Storyline: In brutal weather conditions that include 30-mph wind and temperatures in the 40s, Fowler starts his match against friend and future Oklahoma State teammate Uihlein on fire. Fowler opens with seven straight birdies to take a 5-up lead and beats Uihlein, 5 and 4. Uihlein, currently the No. 1 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, plays well during Fowler’s onslaught – he makes two birdies and no bogeys through seven – but it isn’t enough to overcome the red-hot Fowler, who loses to Morgan Hoffmann in the finals the next day.

They said it: “I started hitting it good in the afternoon,” Fowler said. “This is the first time I made it to the finals of match play, so tomorrow should be fun.”

• • •

When: 2004

Where: Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Club

Who: Morgan Pressel vs. Julieta Granada, semifinals

Storyline: Pressel drains a bunker shot for birdie on the 18th hole to extend the match and pulls out victory on the 21st hole. After Pressel’s hole-out, the players halve two holes before the match is suspended due to darkness on the 20th hole. Pressel wins the first hole the next morning with par and earns victory in the event later that day.

They said it: “Anything can happen in match play and it is difficult to win five matches in a row,” said Pressel, now an LPGA major champion. “That is why winning this tournament means so much to me.”

• • •

When: 2004

Where: Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Club

Who: James Lee vs. David May, finals

Storyline: In the only finals match to ever go to extra holes, Lee and May duel for 23 holes before Lee wins. Both players drain 15-foot putts on the 18th hole to extend the match and then halve the first four playoff holes before Lee earns the victory with par on the 23rd hole.

They said it: “I thought I was going to lose, but fortunately I was able to grind along,” Lee said. “On the final hole we both had almost identical putts in the morning. I got very lucky, but I am extremely happy with how I played.”

• • •

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

• 2007, Bud Cauley def. Mu Hu, 1 up, second round: Cauley, now a Walker Cupper and Alabama sophomore, makes a 45-footer for par on 18; Hu then misses a 6-footer for birdie to extend the match. (Hu also missed a 6-footer for birdie on 17.)

photo

Tiger Woods won eight AJGA events from 1991-92.

• 2006, Philip Francis def. David Chung, 22 holes, quarterfinals: Francis, who was trying to complete junior golf’s grand slam (he had already won the Thunderbird International, U.S. Junior and Rolex Tournament of Champions) hits a 4-iron to 4 feet in near darkness to beat Chung. (Fowler, who would beat Francis the next morning, saw it happen, sitting in a golf cart behind the green with his arms inside his shirt.)

• • •

TIGER’S BEST MATCH:

• In 1991, Tiger Woods faced only one obstacle on his way to the title. In the quarterfinals, he entered the 18th hole all square with Jason Gore. On the fringe, 20 feet away, Tiger drains the birdie to defeat Gore, 1 up. It was his last close call. Woods defeats Ted Purdy, 5 and 3, in the semifinals and Dru Fenimore, 5 and 4, in the finals.

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