Preview: Golfweek Junior Invitational
Friday, November 4, 2011
What: Golfweek Junior Invitational
Where: Shingle Creek GC, Orlando, Fla.
When: Nov. 5-6
The scoop: Motin Yeung enters the Golfweek Junior Invitational as the highest-ranked player in the field. Yeung, No. 11 in the country in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, is from Beijing, China and has given a verbal commitment to Duke.
Yeung is a winner on the AJGA circuit, but that victory came way back in 2008 at the Junior All-Star at Nemacolin. This year, he finished T-4 at the Thunderbird International and T-8 at the Ping Invitational, a pair of top AJGA Invitationals. Yeung also won the 2010 Jones Cup Junior Invitational.
Also in the field is James Yoon, No. 17 in the rankings. Yoon, who attends the IMG David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., won the Scott Robertson Memorial in May. Yoon has given a verbal commitment to UC-Berkeley.
Keep an eye on: Lee McCoy of Clarkesville, Ga. The University of Georgia commit finished second to top-ranked junior Shun Yat Hak at this year’s Rolex Tournament of Champions. McCoy is No. 79 in the Golfweek rankings.
Another player to watch would be Woody Woodward of Bridgeport, W.Va. Woodward has recorded two top-five finishes on the IJGT this year and he also won the West Virginia Junior Match Play, defeating Tadd Obecny II in the finals, who’s also in the field.
Who wins?: As one of the premier players in the country, I'm going with Yeung. He's been on a lot of leaderboards without breaking through for a big win and this week in Orlando, the city that has been his home while in the States.
– D.J. Piehowski
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The scoop: Not only is Annie Park the highest-ranked player in the field at Shingle Creek (No. 19 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings), but she also has arguably the most impressive resume of any competitor.
Park, 16, not only advanced to the semifinals in her fifth U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links start in July, but defeated Wake Forest senior Cheyenne Woods (niece of Tiger Woods) to get there. By the end of the month – and after a quick swing lesson with coach Sean Foley – she was making her third U.S. Girls’ Junior start, where she lasted until the second round of match play. In the meantime, she won her third career AJGA event, the Lessing’s AJGA Classic.
Elyse Smidinger also has junior juggnernaut status after defeating U.S. Women’s Amateur co-medalist Jihee Kim in the first round of match play. Smidinger earned the No. 64 seed the night before in a 5-for-1 playoff, and her defeat of Kim was hardly a surprise. The 17-year-old was runner-up at the Maryland Women’s Amateur earlier this year, and also has two Maryland Junior Championships (2009, ’11) to her credit.
Finally, watch out for Cindy Feng, whose claim to fame is her impressive AJGA Invitational record. The 15-year-old has won four of the elite events in the past four years, beginning with the Thunderbird International Junior in May 2009, and is No. 37 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings despite battling a wrist injury for much of the spring season.
Keep an eye on: She’s no relation to Cindy, but Simin Feng, 16, has been fighting her own battles the for the past year as she tries to come out on the right side of a swing change. Simin, who has made two LPGA starts already in her young career, won the AJGA Annika Invitational in 2009 as a 13-year-old before revamping her swing. Her game has been on and off for the past year, but the darkest days appear to be behind her.
Who wins: Hard to bet against the experience of Park, not to mention confidence gained at the WAPL.
Short shots: In the “famous sisters” category, note Nelly Korda (younger sister of LPGA tour player Jessica Korda) and Robbi Howard (younger sister of Ginger Howard, who recently won stage two of LPGA tour Qualifying School). ... Ten of the top 20 players in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings for the state of Florida are in the field, and four of the top 50 players in the nation also are at Shingle Creek. ... Rachel Dai of Milton, Ga., was a member of the victorious Team Georgia at the U.S. Women’s State Team Championship in October. Dai was the individual medalist for the 54-hole event, and her back-nine 32 was the deciding factor for Georgia’s victory.