5 Things: 2013 AJGA Ping Invitational preview
The AJGA Ping Invitational is set to begin Saturday at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.
The event, which ends Monday, will mark the first AJGA event since early September – the Burgett H. Mooney Jr. Rome Classic and Junior All-Star Invitational will also be held Saturday-Monday. It is also one of the final events of the 2013 AJGA season, as only the Winn Junior Cup (Nov. 15-17) and Polo Golf Junior Classic (Nov. 23-29) remain on the AJGA's junior lineup this year.
Here are 5 Things you need to know before the tournament gets underway Saturday in Stillwater:
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1. THE CHAMP IS HERE: No, the defending champion Gavin Hall won't be participating – Hall is now a freshman at Texas. But Cameron Champ, last year's runner-up, is in the field.
Champ lost to Hall in a two-hole playoff a year ago at Karsten Creek after both players finished with a 2-over 218 total. Champ carded a final-round 2-over 74 after opening with rounds of 71-73.
The performance built off a 19th-place finish at the 2011 Ping Invitational.
The Sacramento, Calif., native has had a relatively light junior season this summer compared to many top junior golfers. He notched top-20 finishes at the Junior PGA Championship and Rolex Tournament of Champions, and also finished T-38 at the Southern Amateur, in July. But before that, he hadn't played a junior event since the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in late April.
Champ, ranked 11th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Boys Rankings, did compete in a few Northern California Golf Association events this summer, including the NCGA Amateur, where he advanced to the Round of 16. He also advanced to U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying after finishing runner-up in the local stage.
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2. JOINER'S COLLAPSE: Gavin Hall and Cameron Champ entered last year's final round at Karsten Creek 11 and seven shots back, respectively. They trailed second-round leader Jacob Joiner, who was 5 under after rounds of 70-67.
But then came a final-round 84, which dropped Joiner from first to third, two shots out of the two-man playoff between Hall and Champ. That final-round number included no birdies, eight bogeys and two double bogeys.
Like Champ, Joiner, ranked 56th by Golfweek, will get another shot at a Ping Invitational this year. It will be the Leesburg, Ga., native's seventh ranked junior event event since May. He has yet to finish better than T-21, though, in his previous six events.
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3. SHE'S NO. 1: At No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Girls Rankings, Nicole Morales is the highest-ranked player, boy or girl, in this year's field.
Morales is looking for her fourth AJGA victory and third AJGA Invitational victory. She is trying for her second Invitational win this season having already captured the Thunderbird International Junior in May.
The Alabama verbal commit hasn't finished outside the top 10 in four AJGA starts this season.
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4. THE OTHER GUYS . . . AND GIRLS: Brad Dalke, ranked third by Golfweek, is the highest-ranked boy in the field.
Other notable boys competing include Jorge Garcia (No. 4), George Cunningham (No. 6), Zachary Bauchou (No. 7), Andy Zhang (No. 8), Doug Ghim (No. 9), Cameron Champ (No. 11), Sam Stevens (No. 14), Adam Wood (No. 15), Carl Yuan (No. 17), Collin Morikawa (No. 18), William Gordon (No. 19) and Sam Burns (No. 20).
Nicole Morales may be the top-ranked player in the girls division, but there are several other notable girls competing, as well, including 14 of the top 15 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Girls Rankings.
Bethany Wu (No. 2), Amy Lee (No. 3), Andrea Lee (No. 5), Hannah O'Sullivan (No. 6), Megan Khang (No. 7), Kathleen Scavo (No. 8), Lakareber Abe (No. 9) and Samantha Wagner (No. 10) are among this win the girls-division field.
Wu was third in last year's event while Sierra Brooks and Shannon Aubert, who are also in this year's field, were among those tied for fourth a year ago.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: The 72 players in this year's field have combined for 68 AJGA victories, including nine AJGA Invitational wins. . . . The 2013 Ping Invitational will mark the eighth straight year that the event has been held at Karsten Creek, which also serves as the home course for the Oklahoma State men's and women's golf teams. . . . Of the 72 boys and girls in this year's field, two are Oklahoma natives – Tyson Reeder of Edmond, Okla., and Brad Dalke, who recently moved to Hobart, Okla. – and three have committed to play college golf in the state of Oklahoma – Dalke, Grant Hirschman and Hannah Wood are verbally committed to Oklahoma University.