2011 in review: Top 10 junior golf storylines

Jordan Spieth after winning the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur

Jordan Spieth after winning the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur

Girls Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Nicole Morales2014NY69.24
2Andrea Lee2016CA69.72
3Bethany Wu2015CA69.74
4Megan Khang2015MA69.92
5Lilia Vu2015CA70.44

Boys Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Scott Scheffler2014TX67.26
2Zecheng Dou2015CA67.76
3Andy Zhang2016FL68.34
4Austin Connelly2015TX68.42
5Brad Dalke2016OK68.46

Boys

1.) Jordan Spieth wins second U.S. Junior: There are two players in the history of junior golf to win multiple U.S. Junior Amateur titles: Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.

Spieth put the finishing touches on his historic junior career by defeating Chelso Barrett in the finals of the U.S. Junior at Gold Mountain. Spieth also won the event in 2009 at Trump National.

“Everything’s gonna change,” Spieth said after the victory, referring to his transition into college golf. “Things are definitely going to change.”

Apparently not: After the fall semester, Spieth is the top-ranked freshman in the country, sitting at No. 2 overall, behind Texas teammate Dylan Frittelli.

2.) Cody Proveaux named AJGA Player of the Year: That first win was a long time coming for Cody Proveaux of Leesville, S.C.

But after his win at last year’s Polo Junior Classic, where he thumped then-top-ranked Anthony Paolucci, Proveaux established himself as the player to beat in 2011, winning the Junior PGA and finishing second in two AJGA invites on his way to being named Player of the Year.

“Just to know my name is up there with Phil and Tiger and Hunter Mahan, it hasn’t even completely sunk in yet,” Proveaux said after winning the award. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

3.) Brad Dalke wins Thunderbird Invitational: Brad Dalke turned some heads when he verbally committed to Oklahoma as a 12-year-old. This year, he let his golf validate the decision.

Dalke, 13, became the youngest invitational winner in AJGA history when he captured the Thunderbird International Junior.

At the time of his commitment, critics wondered how Dalke could stand by his decision. What if he, say, went on to start winning invitationals?

“Will he change his mind?” Brad’s mother, Kay Dalke, asked rhetorically. “One-hundred percent no.”

4.) Gavin Hall wins Junior Players: 2011 was supposed to be Gavin Hall’s year.

Last season, the smooth-swinging lefty burst onto the scene by shooting 62 at the U.S. Junior and nearly winning the prestigious Porter Cup, where he lost to David Chung and tied for second with Peter Uihlein.

But then injury struck. Hall underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist in March.

After tying for 10th in his return to competitive golf at the Junior PGA, Hall hung on to win his first AJGA title at the Junior Players in September.

5.) Juniors shine in pro events: Sure, Russell Henley and Harris English earned professional victories as amateurs this year. But the juniors certainly held their own on the big stages.

First there was Anthony Paolucci’s T-29 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Beating Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines? That certainly warranted the two days off school.

Then there was Jordan Spieth conjuring more magic at the Byron Nelson Championship. A year after being in contention in the final round, Spieth entered Sunday’s round this year tied for seventh.

He was done-in by a final-round 77, but his playing competitor Keegan Bradley went on to claim his first PGA Tour win.

– D.J. Piehowski

• • •

Girls

1.) Jutanugarn sisters continue to dominate: By the time junior golf season rolled around in 2011, the Jutanugarn name was not an unfamiliar one. Ariya, 15, and Moriya, 17, won just about everything there was to win.

It began with the Scott Robertson Memorial, where Moriya finished at 16 under, 13 shots ahead of her sister who was runner-up. She was the low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open later in the summer and finished runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Not to be outdone, Ariya was the low amateur at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and won her first AJGA invitational at the Rolex Girls Junior. She also won the Junior PGA Championship, and perhaps her biggest accomplishment was the U.S. Girls’ Junior title.

Quite a summer.

2.) Juniors turn professional: Ginger Howard, 17, turned professional in June, won a Suncoast event the following week, then turned her attention to LPGA Qualifying School. She would win the second stage, and miss earning partial LPGA status at the final stage by a single stroke.

Still, Howard turned heads at both stages of Q-School as the latest player to grow up early and chase a pro career.

She wasn’t alone, however. Victoria Tanco, 17, maintained her amateur status throughout the summer as she won the Women’s Western Amateur in June, then made the cut for the first time in four U.S. Women’s Open starts the following month. She finished T-15 at the final stage of LPGA Q-School, and turned professional on the spot to accept her card for 2012.

3.) U.S. retains Junior Solheim Cup: Facing a two-point deficit entering the final session at the Junior Solheim Cup, the U.S. team won seven singles matches in soggy conditions to force a 12-all tie and retain the Cup at Knightsbrook Golf Club in County Meath, Ireland. The Americans won the Cup in 2009 at Aurora Golf Club in Illinois (thus the tie allowed them to retain the title).

Jaye Marie Green, a Florida signee, won a team-high 2 1/2 points during the two-day competition. As single matches wound down on the final day of play, Americans Esther Lee, Lindsey Weaver and Karen Chung went a combined 2-0-1.

The tie at this year’s event brings the United States’ overall record in the Junior Solheim Cup to 3-2-1 (both losses were overseas, in 2007 and ’03).

4.) Galdiano, 13, qualifies for U.S. Open: Mariel Galdiano had a full schedule on the eve of her first U.S. Women’s Open. At age 13, Galdiano, of Honolulu, was the subject of early comparisons to Michelle Wie, a native Hawaiian who also qualified for her first Women’s Open as a 13-year-old. The two played a practice round together at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., right before Galdiano met Annika Sorenstam at the driving range for an exhibition on golf techniques.

Galdiano shot a pair of 85s that week to miss the cut.

5.) Emma Talley sets another AJGA record: Talley won her fourth consecutive AJGA event in September at the AJGA Girls Championship, setting the record for most AJGA victories in succession.

Talley won all three AJGA starts in June (Junior at Quad Cities, Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior, Franklin Junior) to tie the record. She would have been playing for her fourth consecutive win at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, but was informed early in the week that she had a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open (she had been an alternate). So, instead, she took the week off to prepare for her first Open start, but missed the cut.

Last summer, the Alabama commit set the AJGA scoring record in a girls event and also claimed the largest margin of victory after winning the 2010 Huntsville Junior by 22 strokes with her 15-under 198 total.

– Julie Williams

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