Junior Boys

NeSmith, Morales win Polo Golf Junior Classic

Matthew NeSmith, left, and Nicole Morales kicked off the 2012 AJGA season with big victories at the Polo Golf Junior Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Matthew NeSmith, left, and Nicole Morales kicked off the 2012 AJGA season with big victories at the Polo Golf Junior Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. ( Courtesy of AJGA )

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Matthew NeSmith, of North Augusta, S.C., defeated Parker Derby, 4 and 3, to win his first AJGA invitational title at the AJGA's Polo Golf Junior Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Friday. Meanwhile, on the girls side, Nicole Morales defeated Jessica Vasilic, 3 and 1, to claim her first invitational title.

NeSmith never trailed in the title match, taking a 1-up lead into the turn and putting the match out of reach on the back nine.

"The longer the match went on, the better I played," said NeSmith, who has committed to the University of South Carolina. "My putting was working, and I was hitting the ball well."

NeSmith advanced to the final with a 5-and-4 win over Brad Dalke, while Derby advanced to the title match with a 5-and-4 romp over top-seeded Adam Wood.

Morales, on the other hand, had to fight back against Vasilic, going 3 down through four holes after Vasilic birdied three of her first four holes. Morales made up some ground on the front to make the turn 1 down and evened up the match with a birdie on No. 10.

Morales, who advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Women's Amateur, took the lead on No. 13, extended the lead on No. 16 and led dormie heading to No. 17.

"Standing on the tee of No. 17, I just couldn't believe I had done it," said Morales, a high-school sophomore. "I knew it wasn't over and I knew she could make the putt, but there are really no other words to describe the way I was feeling then."

Morales beat Andrea Lee, 1 up, in the semifinals, while Vasilic cruised past Karen Chung, 6 and 4.

The Polo Golf Junior Classic is the kick-off to the AJGA's 2012 season. The invitational brought 78 boys and 78 girls to Florida, and featured 27 states, Puerto Rico and 12 foreign countries. After 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, the low 32 players were seeded for a match-play tournament.

Past champions include Stewart Cink, Trevor Immelman, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Grace Park (twice) and Morgan Pressel.