T.J. Vogel didn’t hesitate for a second when he identified the final goal of his junior career, the end of which is rapidly approaching. The 18-year-old chuckled and followed with a polite, “Yes, ma’am.”
As in, yes ma’am, I’m still looking for my first AJGA win.
Vogel, of Miami, Fla., has one final opportunity to capture that elusive title when he heads to Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau, Mo., next week for the Rolex Tournament of Champions. Vogel, No. 11 in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings, already has five top-10 AJGA finishes, and said he feels confident about his consistent play over the past year.
“I definitely want to leave here with a victory, and feel like I can do it,” Vogel said. “Hopefully I make a few putts and things will go my way. Ball-striking wise I’ve been very solid, but it’s all about putting and short game right now.”
Vogel enters the 78-player field this week fresh off an experience that only one other player, Jeffrey Kang, can talk about: a week spent in Tokyo, Japan representing the U.S. at the Toyota Junior World Cup. Vogel put together rounds of 73-66-70-71 to finish in a tie with Kang for eighth and low-American honors. The U.S. placed second as a team, three shots behind Argentina.
“I would say that playing with the best – these are the best players in the world representing their countries… it is a really, really strong field there – that always helps,” Vogel said.
With golf still absent from the Olympics, Vogel recognizes that not many opportunities exist for a golfer to represent his country. The Toyota was different than most tournaments Vogel plays because of the team aspect, but he welcomed the camraderie.
“For this it was kind of like if someone was struggling, we wanted the other players to play well,” Vogel said. “I was worried about my game, but I didn’t mind if they beat me. I wanted them to play their best and post a score because we wanted to win it.”
Vogel’s individual fire was still there, and it drove him to a second-round 66 that was low round that day and the second-lowest 18-hole score for the event.
“I hit 13 out of 14 fairways and 18 greens,” Vogel said. “I had a few two-putt birdies on par 5s and I birdied the last three out of four holes… I was able to shoot a 66 without putting that well.”
Regardless of what happens in Cape Girardeau next week, Vogel opens a new chapter across the country at USC in August. He and Kang, another USC recruit, could find themselves in the Trojans’ top five as they lose three players to graduation and 2007 NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark to the pro ranks.
Rolex can’t come soon enough, but playing for a national powerhouse will lessen the sting if Vogel doesn’t land that title.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for for four years.”
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CAROLINA HURRICANE: Andy Knox is making his name known in the South. The 16-year-old added another title to his resume last week when he won the North Carolina Junior Championship June 19, beating Payne McLeod, 3 and 2, in the final round of match play.
The win comes less than a month after Knox played in his first Nationwide Tour event, the Rex Hospital Open. Knox shot rounds of 73-69–142 and finished at even-par to miss the cut by three shots. Knox was still pleasantly surprised with his play, and has considered the possibility of entering a few Nationwide Tour Monday qualifers this summer.
“It was a pretty big golf tournament and such a good experience for me that it feels like a junior tournament – I’ll just be out there having fun,” Knox said the week after the Rex Hospital.
Looks like the experience is already paying off.
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MOVING UP: Jade Scott claimed a wire-to-wire victory at last week’s Southern Junior Championship and earned a trip to the Southern Amateur. With his 6-under 210 (69-70-71), the 18-year-old Texan will now move on to Colonial Country Club in Cordova, Tenn., July 15-18.
Scott, the 2008 Texas Junior Champion, also has six top-10 finishes on the Texas Junior Golf Tour. His best AJGA finish is fourth at last year’s Burgett H. Mooney, Jr. Rome Classic. Scott will play for Rice University in the fall.
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MEADOW ACROSS THE POND: Some of the top women around the world are lining up to play in this weekend’s AIB Ladies Irish Open on the Ladies European Tour at The Links Portmarnock in Dublin, Ireland. Among them? Stephanie Meadow, the 17-year-old strawberry blonde who has spent the last year lighting up the junior circuits in the U.S..
Meadow claimed a dominant seven-shot victory at the AJGA Cliffs Championship in April, and another win by eight shots at the IJGT Tournament of Champions in May. Meadow also is a past Irish Girls Golf Champion, and earlier this month won a qualifer for the U.S. Girls Junior which will be played in July.