Junior notes: Sojo takes Thunderbird loss in stride

Laura Sojo during the final round of the AJGA Thunderbird International Junior at Grayhawk GC in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Laura Sojo during the final round of the AJGA Thunderbird International Junior at Grayhawk GC in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Girls Rankings »

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

You wouldn’t know from her cheery, upbeat attitude that Laura Sojo had just lost a sudden-death playoff to Thai superstar Ariya Jutanugarn. But Sojo, a 16-year-old from Barranquilla, Colombia, was all smiles and positivity when discussing her run at the AJGA Thunderbird International.

During the final round of the tournament, Sojo made her way to a tournament total 5-under 211 (71-71-69) at Grayhawk GC’s Raptor Course in Scottsdale, Ariz., which included a bogey-free front nine in the final round.

After trailing playing competitor Jutanugarn’s lead by one shot at the turn, Sojo carded a birdie on the par-5 18th hole to clinch a one-hole playoff – the third playoff in the Thunderbird Girls Division in the last four years – with Jutanugarn, who had parred the hole.

But Sojo’s luck ran out on the par-4 10th, where she landed in some trouble on the playoff hole.

“My first shot seemed really good but my ball rolled too much, into the bushes. I took relief with a one-stroke penalty,” Sojo said of the unplayable lie.

After her next shot landed in a bunker - which she got out of but failed to make the green - Sojo got the ball up and down for a double-bogey. Jutanugarn made a par on the playoff hole, so Sojo wound up with yet another runner-up finish (she finished second in 2011’s TaylorMade-adidas Golf Junior All-Star at Chateau Elan and Junior All-Star at Hilton Head).

Even losing in the playoff couldn’t diminish Sojo’s good spirits. “No matter what I always give my best!” she said, clearly seeing her second-place finish as a “glass half full” rather than a negative “half empty.”

“This has been the best tournament I have ever played in. The AJGA does an excellent job on all the tournaments but this one I really enjoyed, with all the night games we had,” said Sojo, referring to glow-in-the-dark golf on a mini course that the AJGA organized for the players one night of the tournament.

Such is how golf should be for youngsters like Sojo: fun rather than upsetting.

• • •

NO BIG THING: Ask Annie Park about winning the Nassau County High School Championship earlier this month, and you’re likely to get a nonchalant response. It’s normal for the subdued Park, who lives in Levittown, N.Y., and plays for the General Douglas MacArthur High School boys’ golf team.

“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Park said of finishing atop a field of 133 boys and one other girl on May 23. She broke the tournament scoring record by six shots, posting an 8-under 134 at the two-day tournament hosted at Bethpage State Park’s Blue Course.

It’s the first time Park, 17, has won a boys’ golf tournament, and she says the victory was courtesy of her short game.

“(The course) was playing tough for me because it was playing at, like, 7,000 yards,” she said.

The crazy thing about Park’s month is that the Nassau title truly isn’t her best accomplishment. She won a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier at Trump National Golf Club in Colts Neck, N.J., a week earlier. In the past year, she also has won an AJGA event, the Golfweek East Coast Junior Invitational and knocked off Cheyenne Woods in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.

Park, who recently gave a verbal commitment to play for USC, spent Memorial Day weekend in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the AJGA Thunderbird, an elite junior event hosted at Grayhawk Golf Club. She tied for 13th.

Keeping that resume in mind, one shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction Park’s Nassau victory drew from competitors. It wasn’t one of surprise.

“They know me," she said. "I’m known as a golfer in my town."

• • •

FOOTNOTES: JiaXin Yang of Beijing won the FCWT Girls Tour Championship at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on May 28 with a 2-under 214 (71-69-74). She won the FCWT’s season-ending event by two strokes over Anna Sophia Bohmer of Cali, Colombia. . . . The IJGT also wrapped up its season May 28 with the Bridgestone Golf Tournament of Champions. Susana Vik of Greenwich, Conn., shot 7-over 187 (70-78-39). She won the rain-shortened event, held at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Fla., by one stroke over Tokyo’s Moyu Sasaki. . . . In recruiting news, Paige Lee of Folsom, Calif., gave a verbal commitment to UC Davis. Lee, ranked No. 13 in the 2013 class, won the 2011 Golfweek West Coast Invitational.

• • •

A LOOK AHEAD: The AJGA has several events coming up this week, including the Preseason Junior at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort on June 1-3; the Junior at Steelwood CC, Aspen Junior Golf Classic at Aspen GC, PING Phoenix Junior at ASU Karsten GC and AJGA Junior at Quad Cities, at Short Hills CC, all June 4-7. . . . The PGA Junior Series kicks off its season on June 5 at Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington, Ky. . . . The TJGT has events June 4-5 in Dallas, Houston and Austin: DBU Patriot/Dallas Championship, Northgate Junior Championship and Greyrock Junior Championship, respectively.

–Julie Williams contributed

• • •

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