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Eighth-grader big for Christ School at Palmetto

Brentley Romine

OCEAN ISLAND BEACH, N.C. –– What happens when a team is missing its best player?

In most cases, the No. 2 or 3 guy steps up to fill the top spot in the lineup. In the case of Christ School from Arden, N.C., it was an eighth-grader who provided a lift Thursday in the qualifying round of the Palmetto High School Championship.

Carson Ownbey shot 74 last week to earn a spot in coach David Gaines' lineup, which would be without junior Jonathan Rector, a Clemson commit who is playing in an AJGA event this weekend. Thursday, Ownbey carded a 3-over 75 at Ocean Ridge Plantation's Panther's Run course to help Christ School grab second place in the qualifier and earn a spot in the championship flight, to be played over 36 holes Friday and Saturday.

"This was really a good test because these kids have kind of become comfortable with Jonathan (a winner at the North Carolina High School Invitational on Monday) being in the lineup and shooting low numbers," Gaines said. "We've gotta find six guys that can play the state tournament for us, and it was nice to see our eighth-grader come out ...

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After Furman release, Townsend to be SMU walk-on

Brentley Romine

OCEAN ISLAND BEACH, N.C. – Two months ago, Gray Townsend was unsure where he would play his college golf.

Townsend, a senior at Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, N.C., signed with Furman in November, but after the Paladins announced in February that the school would drop its men's golf program after the spring season, Townsend asked for and was granted a release from his national letter of intent.

"It was a big surprise," said Townsend, who is with his high school team competing in the Palmetto High School Championship Thursday-Saturday at various courses near the southern North Carolina coast.

"I think everyone, including myself, was in shock – my family, my friends and, of course, the alumni."

Even after Furman announced its plan to reinstate the program a couple of weeks later, Townsend already had made up his mind – he was looking at other options, and shortly after decided on SMU, where he will be a preferred walk-on.

"It was kind of a big whirlwind," said Townsend, who went from having a 50-percent athletic scholarship to no scholarship. "I was looking forward to Furman. They have a great program, but after everything happened I felt like I had ...

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Tseng to host AJGA invitational for girls in 2014

Golfweek Staff

Yani Tseng is the latest in a contingent of LPGA and PGA Tour players to sign their name to an AJGA event. Tseng, along with the Taiwan-based Swinging Skirts Golf Foundation, will host the Yani Tseng Invitational from 2014-16 in southern California.

The event will be one of 13 invitationals on the AJGA schedule. These tournaments are the most prestigious on the AJGA schedule. The Tseng Invitational, to be played June 30-July 3, 2014, will feature 72 of the top female juniors, including 18 of the top international players.

“I first came to the United States when I was 12 to play in the Junior World Championship in San Diego and subsequently in many other USGA and amateur championships, so I really benefited from playing American junior golf,” said Tseng, who won LPGA Tour Player of the Year honors in 2010 and ’11. “The AJGA is the best organization to bring players together and for me to host such a prestigious AJGA invitational in Southern California, where I played much of my junior golf, makes it extra special. I’m excited to partner with the Swinging Skirts to open a door for international junior golfers to compete at the highest ...

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Khang finds long overdue AJGA title at Ping Invite

Golfweek Staff

For Megan Khang, an AJGA title seemed long overdue. Khang will turn 16 this week, but the petite player from Rockland, Mass., seems as if she’s been on the junior golf scene forever.

In reality the Ping Invtiational, which Khang won on Oct. 14, was only Khang’s 14th starts in an AJGA event since 2010. But along with that, Khang has played in four U.S. Girls Juniors and has become a familiar name in Northeast junior golf. She also won the Connecticut Women’s Open and played in the U.S. Women’s Open in 2012.

Khang had found the top of the leaderboard after a second-round 2-under 70 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., the lowest girls’ round of the tournament. She was only one stroke off the pace, and made the turn at 4-over for the tournament, as the lead continued to fluctuate. Her final-round 72 left her three shots ahead of Lilia Vu. Khang shot 2-over 218 for the tournament.

This win is definitely big,” Khang said. “This golf course is stupendous and I just really like playing AJGA events, especially a big one like this. It means a lot to win ...

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Latanna Stone, now 11, enrolls at IMG Academy

Golfweek Staff

Not quite a year after making headlines as “the 10-year-old” who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur, Latanna Stone has announced her decision to enroll at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In addition to her Women’s Am start (where she missed the cut for match play), Stone, now 11, has won more than 100 tournament titles in her short career, according to the Florida State Golf Association. She will graduate high school in 2019.

“I like it here, and I think it can really help me do more in my golf game,” Stone said of the academy. “I really want to step up my game…and I like it because I’m around other kids doing the same.”

The IMG Academy golf program is under the direction of David Whelan, who also is Paula Creamer’s swing coach. Creamer attended IMG as a junior, and Whelan said he sees similarities between the two players.

“Seeing Latanna play reminds me of a young Paula Creamer, and it’s great to welcome a player with her ability because she has the potential to go as far as she wants to with golf,” Whelan said. “I’m especially excited ...

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Meet Taylor Coleman, star of North Texas LPGA

Julie Williams

Taylor Coleman was the talk of Las Colinas after storming to the top of the leaderboard as a little-known Texas teenager. Coleman, 16, qualified for her first LPGA start, the North Texas LPGA Shootout, in a qualifier designed specifically for the top junior girls in Texas. Three days later, she was sitting among the top 10 players with a first-round 68.

Coleman burst into the spotlight so fast that we barely had time to get to know her. The 16-year-old heard about the opportunity to qualify for the LPGA event at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas from boyfriend Austin Connelly, another top junior golfer (Connelley recently won the AJGA Under Armour/Hunter Mahan Championship and finished T-13 at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley). Coleman submitted an application to the Nexus Club, the organization sponsoring the qualifer, and was granted an opportunity to play. She shot 1-over 72 and earned one of two spots reserved in the field.

Coleman had played a few practice rounds at Las Colinas in preparation for the event, but before that, had never played the course. She lives about 280 miles south of Irving, in San Antonio.

“It sets up good for me ...

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Spots reserved for juniors in North Texas LPGA Shootout

Golfweek Staff

Two spots have been reserved for top junior girls in this month’s North Texas LPGA Shootout. A field of 18 of the top juniors in the region have been selected to play in a unique Monday qualifier for the LPGA event, the first tour stop in Texas since the 2009 LPGA Championship.

The top two finishes in the April 22 qualifier, named the North Texas High School Shootout, will get to play in the LPGA event that begins April 25 at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas.

The format for the North Texas High School Shootout has nine groups, each of which includes two high school players, one LPGA professional, and two sponsor-amateurs. The top two high school finishers in the 18-hole stroke-play competition earn playing positions in the LPGA tournament starting on April 25.

A similar event, the North Texas College Shootout, was played on March 15. North Carolina’s Casey Grice and Texas’ Madison Pressel earned tournament exemptions out of that event.

“We are tremendously fortunate to have such an outstanding collection of high school athletes for this first-time event,” said Mike Shearburn, leader of the selection committee for North Texas High School Shootout. “Creating special ...

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UCLA signee Zheng earns Symetra Tour start

Golfweek Staff

Yvonne Zheng has earned a spot in the Symetra Tour’s next Florida stop, the Guardian Retirement Championship at Sara Bay, to be played April 26-28 in Sarasota, Fla.

Zheng, a 17-year-old UCLA signee who lives in Bradenton, Fla., earned the spot in a points race that stretched across 13 IMG Junior Golf Tour events. This is the second year the Symetra Tour has offered the exemption to a junior player, but last year only six events counted as qualifiers.

Zheng also vied for last year’s spot. She led in points entering the final qualifying event, played at The Golf Club of North Hampton in Fernandina Beach, Fla., only to be overtaken by Natalia Perez of Bolivia.

This year, Zheng held a 20-point lead on 2013 classmate Camila Serrano of Colombia. Zheng’s second-place finish March 19 at the IMG Junior Golf Tour event at Victoria Hills Golf Club in DeLand, Fla., secured her spot at Sara Bay.

“I am just really excited about (Guardian Retirement Championship at) Sara Bay, so I’m going to practice a lot for it,” Zheng said. “Tee shots were important out there, so I was focused on putting myself in the fairway.”

Zheng ...

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Moodie asks Euro juniors to focus on Jr. Solheim Cup

Golfweek Staff

Janice Moodie had a bit of sage advice for European Junior Solheim Cup hopefuls in advance of the Spanish International Ladies’ Amateur.

“My mother used to say, ‘Let your clubs do the talking and the rest will take care of itself,’ and that’s good advice for anyone who wants to get on in this game,” said Moodie, a three-time European Solheim Cup team member who will captain the European juniors in August. “I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all the girls the best of luck this season. I can’t wait to meet my team and getting down to the serious business of winning the trophy back from the Americans.”

The Spanish International Ladies Amateur, to be played Feb. 27-March 3 at Pula Golf Club in Mallorca, Spain, is the first of six qualifying events for the Junior Solheim Cup. Moodie issued a challenge to potential members of Europe’s team, asking them to play hard and set a goal to make the team. The event will be played at the Inverness Golf Club in Englewood, Colo., on Aug. 13-14, the days leading up to the Solheim Cup.

Six players will receive spots on the team ...

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Strom could be the next international sensation

Julie Williams

REUNION, Fla. – Each year, the AJGA’s Annika Invitational introduces the junior golf world to the next top international player. Three of the five winners in the event’s history have hailed from China, Argentina and France.

Spots are always reserved in the Annika for international invitees. This year, that included Annika Europe winner Linnea Strom, a long-hitting, soft-spoken Swede who began her week at Reunion Resort beside Annika Sorenstam at the tournament-opening press conference. It was not only her first time addressing media in such a formal setting, but her first time doing it in English.

“They had given me the questions before, so I was prepared,” Strom said with a big smile mid-week.

Strom relished the opportunity to do the press conference alongside fellow Swede Annika, a “really big” role model for the 16-year-old. She relished the opportunity to play in her tournament even more. Strom was that player who drew a trail of interest from the army of college coaches that annually attend the tournament.

Strom has expressed interest in attending college in the U.S., and her play at Reunion offered coaches many reasons to be excited. Strom played alongside Italian Virginia Elena Carta and Denmark ...

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Lee won't defend Annika title, but plans for busy summer

Julie Williams

There is a name conspicuously missing about halfway down the field list for this weekend’s Annika Invitational. Alison Lee won’t travel cross country to defend, but it’s not because Lee’s junior career is over. This is only the beginning of a long season that will end with Lee’s name finding a place on the UCLA roster by fall.

Lee, a 17-year-old from Valencia, Calif., maintained her usually intense competition schedule in 2012, and it resulted in two AJGA invitational titles, a runner-up finish at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, two LPGA major starts and a spot on the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team for a second time.

She’s earned a little break.

“I’m really taking a lot of time off golf right now,” Lee said. The last semester of her senior year at Valencia High School began on Jan. 14, and Lee is relishing the chance to “just enjoy everything.”

Included in that everything is the top spot in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings. When two-time Rolex Junior Player of the Year Ariya Jutanugarn turned professional at the end of Ladies European Tour Q-School in December, Lee moved to the top.

“When I ...

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AJGA permits use of rangefinders for 2013 events

Golfweek Staff

The AJGA has adopted a note to Rule 14-3 in the USGA Rules of Golf that allows juniors to use distance-measuring devices in AJGA competition. The announcement came down Wednesday, following four case studies conducted during AJGA events in 2012.

“We are excited to introduce the use of rangefinders in all of our events in 2013,” said Mark Oskarson, the AJGA's chief operating officer. “With all the information we gathered over the course of the year, we feel this is the right direction for our organization.”

The studies gathered information from parents, juniors and staff about types of rangefinders that are most popular among junior players and how allowing their use might affect pace of play. In 2012, the average 18-hole pace of play for all AJGA events was 4 hours and 23 minutes. AJGA studies showed there was not a major impact, positive or negative, on pace of play where rangefinders were used.

By permitting the use of rangefinders, the AJGA’s policy becomes more consistent with college golf, which permits rangefinders.


Pagila will serve country, play golf at West Point

Julie Williams

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – When Justin Pagila lifted his bag at the end of a long day at the Junior PGA Championship, a single “A” appeared on the bottom. It represents the U.S. Army. Pagila is proud to have committed to play golf at West Point beginning in the fall of 2013.

Pagila, a 17-year-old from Dublin, Calif., says he always has wanted to become an officer, and getting to play golf on the way to that goal is a bonus.

“Obviously Army hasn’t been that much of a name in college golf, but we’re looking to change that,” Pagila said. He’ll play under third-year head coach Brian Watts, a figure who Pagila said keeps a dream of professional golf alive without Pagila having to sacrifice the desire to serve his country.

Pagila’s name is one that’s familiar in Northern California. The week before arriving at Sycamore Hills Golf Club for the Junior PGA Championship, Pagila traveled to Eagle, Idaho, with three of his golf buddies to attempt a title defense at the Junior America’s Cup, an event consisting of 17 four-man teams from the western half of the U.S., Canada and Mexico ...

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Sierra Brooks, 14, about to hit her stride

Julie Williams

ORLANDO, Fla. – By the time Sierra Brooks had completed her first AJGA Wyndham Cup on July 26, she had compiled an individual record of 3-1-0 and was celebrating on Bay Hill’s 18th green with the winning East team.

The petite 14-year-old with the thick blonde braid disappeared in that crowd of screaming upperclassmen, but one day it’s likely she’ll be at the forefront of such a scene. Teammate Jaye Marie Green, who made the Wyndham Cup her last event as a junior before heading off to LPGA Q-School in the fall, predicts that will be sooner rather than later.

“She’s so good, she has so much potential it’s unbelievable,” Green said at the end of the tournament. “For her only being 14 and for her to hit it as far as she does for being young and little? It’s just unbelievable. . . . I’m scared for everyone else.”

Brooks was the youngest female member of the East team at the annual throwdown between 20 of the top players from the East and 20 of the top players from the West. On paper, Brooks looked like the most inexperienced too. Her play didn’t reflect it ...

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Q&A: Steve Molinelli, caddie by the Bay

Julie Williams

Caddie Steve Molinelli, who sells and appraises dental practices by day, likes to pick up a bag when a major USGA or local amateur event is played near his San Francisco home. The Olympic Club member looped for quarterfinalist Casie Cathrea last week at the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif., for Colt Knost when he won the 2007 U.S. Amateur at Olympic and for Ryo Ishikawa at last month’s U.S. Open there. The 46-year-old is a member of the First Tee of San Francisco board of directors, and plays to a plus-1 handicap.

• • •

How does Casie’s game compare to a top male amateur or a pro?

Her ball-striking is phenomenal and better than most of the male amateurs that I play with. She plays with so much authority. I was really impressed at the U.S. Open watching guys hit on the range. I didn’t see anybody hit one thin, I didn’t see anybody hit one fat, and it’s been the same with Casie all week.

• • •

Which course, Lake Merced or Olympic, sets up better for match play?

Olympic Club is a great match-play course ...

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