AJGA All-Stars reflect on junior careers
PLYMOUTH, Mass. – First things first, there’s this matter of the legendary genes. Her father is Tom Morris, right?
Rachel Morris laughs and on a day of pulsating sunshine, even more warmth is given off. Obviously, the Tom Morris stuff she has heard before, so when she’s asked if it’s Old Tom or Young Tom, she smiles.
“I’m sure he’d like it if I said, ‘Young Tom,’ ” said the young woman from Carlsbad, Calif., who is firmly entrenched in The Land of Bittersweet these days.
Sweet because it’s Old Sandwich Golf Club, as pure a golf experience as one can encounter and when your life revolves around the greatest game, this is as good as it gets.
Bitter because it’s the final chapter of a phase of her life that could not have been any more rewarding.
Thursday, Morris will play a singles match at the annual AJGA Canon Cup and she’ll do so as a veteran. Grizzled and cagey? Given her sweet demeanor, it’s hard to think of her with such cliches, but when you consider that she is playing in her 50th AJGA event since her 2005 debut, there’s no question she’s a veteran.
But tomorrow, when amateur golf replaces junior golf? “I go back to getting used to being one of the younger ones out there,” Morris said.
Like Morris, Ani Gulugian will wrap up her junior golf career Thursday at Old Sandwich and for the two southern California girls – Morris from Carlsbad, Gulugian from Irvine – what a splendid journey it’s been.
Taking a different spin on what it is that Bobby Jones once said – something to the effect that there is golf and then there is tournament golf – both Morris and Gulugian agree that there is junior golf and then there is amateur golf.
There’s a difference.
“Junior golf brings everyone together, boys and girls. It is a lot more family,” Gulugian said. “Amateur golf is about growing up, you’re a lot more on your own.”
As farewells go to a chapter in your life, Gulugian couldn’t have asked for a better script to remember. Her match, the 15th and final one of the second day of the Canon Cup, had come to the 18th hole in fast-falling sunlight and what greeted the four players – Gulugian and compatriot teammate Preston Valder, and East opponents Oliver Schniederjans and Victoria Tanco – were all their teammates.
Talk about the personification of junior golf, it was a moment Gulugian, playing in her 30th AJGA event before heading off to UCLA, will not soon forget.
“It’s really sad,” she said. “I can’t really put into words how much I’ll miss the AJGA and junior golf.”
Gulugian and Valder earned a half-point in their match with Schniederjans and Tanco, leaving East and West teams tied, 15-15, heading into Thursday’s 20 singles matches. On a competitive level, it can’t get any closer, yet that’s true about the junior golf scene, too.
Where else, for instance, would you see a player like Morris turning in her own golf clubs after lunch to pick up a teammate’s bag. But there she was, caddieing for Casey Grice, just as Gulugian had sat out Tuesday afternoon’s session to carry clubs for a teammate.
It’s an aspect of this Canon Cup business that the players seem to truly love. It’s also a slice of golf that is most likely lost forever once they cross the threshold from junior golf to amateur golf, just as much of the game’s spirit is forfeited when you move from amateur golf to pro golf.
None of this wrong, mind you. It’s just the way things are, and both Morris and Gulugian seem to understand that.
Two weeks shy of her entrance into USC, Morris said she isn’t so much worried about the golf, “but it’s getting out there to get comfortable again.”
Said Gulugian, a three-time AJGA winner: “(Junior golf) has been fun, I’ve enjoyed it all, but it’s time for me to move on, to get ready for college. But I’m excited for the challenge.”
There’s no reason to expect anything different from these junior golfers at the next level, once they adjust to the landscape. In fact, you’d have to say Morris is off to a splendid start, because several weeks ago she was medalist at the Pacific Northwest Amateur in Clarkston, Wash., then roared through match play, culminated by an 8 and 6 win over future USC teammate Cyna Rodriguez in the final.
It perhaps shows that she’s already arrived on the amateur scene, even as she prepares for her last go-round on the junior stage.
And as she prepares to leave, Morris looks back with great appreciation. In her very first AJGA event, the Ashworth Junior at Oakridge in 2005, she shot 87-82 and finished seventh out of 36 competitors.
Fast forward through the years and in her final AJGA competition as an individual, the Rolex Tournament of Champions, Morris shot 74-74-73 and was T-2 out of 60.
In between there have been seven victories, a long list of honors, and an understanding of herself as a golfer.
“Junior golf and the AJGA has made me such a better player,” Morris said. “Even if you don’t win, you get better every time. Every time I learn and it really pushes me to look back and see where my game has come from.”
And when she does look back, no doubt she smiles fondly.
Results from Day 2 at the Canon Cup, played July 28 at Old Sandwich Golf Club in Plymouth, Mass.
Day 2: West 15 1/2, East 14 1/2
Wednesday Afternoon Mixed Four-Ball: West 3 1/2, East 1 1/2
A.J. McInerney-Lindsey Weaver (W) def. Andrew Knox-Shannon Aubert, 3 and 2
Will Zalatoris-Casey Grice (W) vs. Drew Czuchry-Ginger Howard, halved
Tanner Kesterson-Emily Tubert (W) def. Justin Thomas-Emma Talley, 1 up
Patrick Rodgers-McKenzie Talbert (E) def. Seiji Liu-Erynne Lee, 4 and 2
Preston Valder-Ani Gulugian (W) vs. Oliver Schniederjans-Victoria Tanco, halved
Wednesday Morning Foursome: East 6, West 4
Suzie Lee-McKenzie Talbert (E) def. Casey Grice-Emily Collins , 5 and 3
Justin Thomas-Logan Harrell (E) def. Tanner Kesterson-Will Zalatoris , 4 and 3
Kristen Park-Tiffany Lim (W) def. Emma Talley-Victoria Tanco, 6 and 5
Preston Valder-Andrew Levitt (W) def. Franco Castro-Oliver Schniederjans, 2 and 1
Kelly Shon-Karen Chung (E) def. Rachel Morris-Kyung Kim, 3 and 1
Nicholas Reach-Stephen Behr, Jr. (E) def. Kramer Hickok-Michael Kim, 1 up
Ginger Howard-A.J. Newell (E) def. Ani Gulugian-Lindsey Weaver, 1 up
Seiji Liu-Jay Hwang (W) def. Patrick Rodgers-Drew Czuchry, 2 and 1
Erynne Lee-Emily Tubert (W) def. Ashlan Ramsey-Shannon Aubert, 4 and 3
Andrew Knox-JD Tomlinson (E) def. Jeff Wibawa-A.J. McInerney, 1 up
• • •
Day 1: West 8, East 7
Tuesday Afternoon Mixed Foursome: West, 3, East 2
Stephen Behr Jr.-Kelly Shon (E) def. Kramer Hickok-Rachel Morris, 3 and 2
Andrew Levitt-Emily Collins (W) def. Nicholas Reach-Karen Chung, 1 up
Logan Harrell-A.J. Newell (E) def. Jeff Wibawa-Tiffany Lim, 4 and 3
Michael Kim-Kristen Park (W) def. J.D. Tomlinson-Ashlan Ramsey, 4 and 3
Jay Hwang-Kyung Kim (W) def. Franco Castro-Suzie Lee, 4 and 3
Tuesday Morning Four-Ball: East 5, West 5
Emma Talley-Victoria Tanco (E) def. Emily Tubert-Tiffany Lim, 2 and 1
Nicholas Reach-Stephen Behr Jr. (E) def. Kramer Hickok-Tanner Kesterson, 3 and 1
Kelly Shon-Karen Chung (E) def. Rachel Morris-Erynne Lee, 2 and 1
Jay Hwang-Michael Kim (W) def. Andrew Knox-J.D. Tomlinson, 3 and 2
Casey Grice-Emily Collins (W) def. Ginger Howard-A.J. Newell, 1 up
Justin Thomas-Logan Harrell (E) def. Seiji Liu-Andrew Levitt, 4 and 3
Kristen Park-Kyung Kim (W) def. Ashlan Ramsey-Shannon Aubert, 1 up
A.J. McInerney-Preston Valder (W) def. Franco Castro-Oliver Schniederjans, 3 and 1
Ani Gulugian-Lindsay Weaver (W) def. Suzie Lee-McKenzie Talbert, 1 up
Patrick Rodgers-Drew Czuchry (E) def. Jeff Wibawa-Will Zalatoris, 7 and 6