Paolucci, Park headline field at Junior PGA
Golfweek assistant editor Ryan Lavner previews the Junior PGA Championship.
Golfweek.com brings you closer to the action at the Junior PGA Championship than anyone else. Check back daily for reports from Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind.
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Junior PGA Championship
When: Aug. 2-5
Where: Sycamore Hills Golf Club, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Who: Ten of the top 25 players in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings (No. 1 Denny McCarthy, No. 5 Anthony Paolucci, No. 6 Oliver Schniederjans, No. 7 Patrick Rodgers, No. 14 Justin Thomas, No. 15 Jay Hwang, No. 16 Grayson Murray, No. 18 Wyndham Clark, No. 19 J.D. Tomlinson, No. 22 Tanner Kesterson).
Cream of the crop:
• Denny McCarthy, Golfweek’s top-ranked junior, advanced to the semifinals of last week’s U.S. Junior Amateur before being ousted by Justin Thomas. The Virginia commit is playing the best golf of his life – he recently won the Maryland Open – and should be a heavy favorite at Sycamore Hills.
• Justin Thomas rolls into Indiana having played the U.S. Junior Amateur and AJGA Canon Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event, in consecutive weeks. Despite being one of the best ballstrikers in the country, Thomas has long struggled with his putter, and that eventually cost him the Junior Amateur title (he lost to 14-year-old Jim Liu in the 36-hole final).
• The last time Patrick Rodgers was in action at a junior event, he was locked in a spirited duel with Anthony Paolucci at the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions. Rodgers shot a final-round 74 to lose by two shots. Still, he comes into the Junior PGA in great form, having won the prestigious Western Junior earlier this summer. To many, Rodgers is the player to beat in Indiana.
• Anthony Paolucci was the hottest player in junior golf after winning the Rolex ToC. But after a week off, Paolucci struggled to find his optimum form at the Junior Amateur, eventually losing to unheralded Robby Shelton in the quarterfinals. Paolucci, the 2008 champion, is making his fifth appearance at the Junior PGA.
Others to watch:
• Oliver Schniederjans. The 2009 Polo winner has finished no worse than T-11 in both AJGA invitational starts this season, and could use this PGA stage as a way to establish himself among the junior elite.
• Wyndham Clark. Many were surprised when he lost in the opening round of match play at the U.S. Junior Amateur. It’ll be interesting to see whether that early exit will affect Clark the rest of the summer.
• Tanner Kesterson. He won the FootJoy Invitational in June – which Paolucci lost by making double bogey on the 72nd hole – and another victory this summer would certainly help him rise in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings. He’s currently No. 22.
– Ryan Lavner
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Who: Nine of Golfweek’s top 25 juniors (No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, No. 5 Kristen Park, No. 9 Emma Talley, No. 11 Mariah Stackhouse, No. 13 Erynne Lee, No. 14 Grace Na, No. 16 Lindsey Weaver, No. 23 Ginger Howard, No. 24 Alison Lee).
Cream of the crop:
• Kristen Park is another two-time winner on the AJGA circuit this year – winning the Under Armor/Hunter Mahan Junior Championship and the prestigous Rolex Tournament of Champions. Park, ranked No. 5 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings, also advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Girls’ Junior.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Park also was 3-0 in her Canon Cup matches, including a 6-and-5 foursomes victory over Emma Talley and Victoria Tanco.
• Emma Talley not only has two AJGA wins to her credit this year, but she doesn’t seem to be rattled by anything (i.e. getting bounced in the Round of 64 at the U.S. Girls’ Junior). In her last stroke play event, Talley set an AJGA scoring record at the Huntsville Junior (67-66-65–198). Look for her to continue that trend this week.
• Erynne Lee has a win and three other top 10s on the AJGA circuit this year, and she is one of the top returning players from last year’s Junior PGA, where she finished T-7. Although she took an early exit from the U.S. Girls’ Junior earlier this month, losing to Cali Hipp, Lee is a player that can break out at any time.
Others to watch:
• Apart from a T-26 hiccup at the Thunderbird International Junior, Lindsey Weaver has not finished outside the top three in her four AJGA starts this year. Most recently, she won the Columbus Junior presented by the Memorial Tournament, where she opened with 66-65. Weaver also advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, where she was bested by eventual semifinalist Gyeol Park.
• Ginger Howard played extremely well at the U.S. Girls’ Junior earlier this month, advancing to the Round of 16 after placing second in stroke play. Her 142 total (70-72) was just one shot back of medalist Danielle Kang. Howard has also recorded two top 5s on the AJGA circuit this year, finishing second at the AJGA Junior at Innisbrook and fourth at the Rolex Girls Junior Championship.
– D.J. Piehowski