Rolex Girls Junior Championship preview
When: June 15-17
Where: Long Cove Club, Hilton Head, S.C.
Who: Three of the top 10 players in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings (No. 1 Victoria Tanco, No. 3 Alison Lee and No. 8 Doris Chen)
The scoop: The AJGA’s summer schedule is heating up, and next week the top junior girls in the country will chase the third invitational title of 2010. The Pete Dye-designed Long Cove Club should provide a good test for these juniors’ games, and will be a far cry from the desert setting of the Thunderbird. As a recap of the year so far, Victoria Tanco already owns an invitational victory (her fourth) after a six-shot win at the Annika Invitational Feb. 15, and Yueer Cindy Feng won her second consecutive Thunderbird title in a playoff May 31. Both players are in the field this week, and certainly rank high on the list of contenders. Tanco has won this event before, in 2008, but Feng has momentum on her side. If both arrive in Hilton Head on top of their games, it could make for a great battle. Now think about this: A win by Feng, who is just 14 years old (compared to 16-year-old Tanco), would leave the two tied at four invitational titles each.
Of the 78 players in the Rolex Girls field, 22 are ranked in Golfweek’s top 50. Tanco, a two-time Rolex Player of the Year, holds the top ranking. A few notables are absent from the field, however. Laetitia Beck, who contended at the Annika and the Thunderbird, isn’t playing in Hilton Head next week, and neither is Jessica Korda, who finished second at last year’s tournament. Doris Chen, a 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior quarterfinalist, returns as the highest finisher (T-5) from last year’s tournament.
Keep an eye on Alabama-commit Stephanie Meadow, who has two AJGA wins and in 2009 also won the IJGT Tournament of Champions and the Golfweek Junior Invitational. Meadow was fourth at the Thunderbird. Alison Lee also got a top-10 finish at the Thunderbird, with big help from a second-round 69, and so did Erynne Lee.
Who’s going to win: Feng isn’t a bad bet for another invitational title. She is, after all, 1-for-1 this year in invitationals entered. (Feng sat out of the Annika because of an illness.) Feng’s biggest competition will come from Tanco, who is never a player to count out.
On our radar (outside Golfweek’s top 20): Here’s a name that isn’t being said enough: Jaye Marie Green (No. 63). The 16-year-old has finished seventh in both AJGA events entered this season, the first of which was the Annika Invitational. In four AJGA events played in 2009, Green recorded one win and two top-4 finishes. . . . Another player to keep an eye on: Kyle Roig (No. 23). A big component missing from this UCLA-commit’s resume is an AJGA invitational win. Roig won the Harder Hall in January, and has represented her native Puerto Rico in the World Amateur Team Championship (she was the low finisher for her team in 2008).
Short shots: Casie Cathrea, a 14-year-old from Livermore, Calif., will make her AJGA invitational debut at the Rolex Girls. Cathrea has two LPGA starts in her young career (at last fall’s CVS/Pharmacy LPGA Challenge and last month’s Bell Micro LPGA Classic), and has won six junior events already in 2010. . . . Another name that might sound familiar is Ariya Jutanugarn of Bangkok, Thailand. Where have you heard that name before? Jutanugarn played in the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand this year, and became the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event three years ago at age 11. She also knocked off Alexis Thompson in the Round of 16 at the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior. . . . Compare the Rolex Girls field with the list of players to advance from U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifying, and there’s quite a bit of overlap. Nine players in this field will tee it up at Oakmont next month, including Tanco, Alison Lee and Feng. The future is now.