SIMON VAULTS TO TOP OF GIRLS DIVISION AT ROLEX TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Francis fires 5-under-par 65 to take lead in Boys Division
EVERGREEN, Colo. -After two rounds of play at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, Ashleigh Simon of Johannesburg, South Africa, has a one-stroke lead in the Girls Division after carding a 2-under-par 68 Friday. Philip Francis of Scottsdale, Ariz., fired a tournament low-round 65 to take a three-shot lead in the Boys Division.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Rolex Tournament of Champions is a 72-hole stroke-play event with a cut in both divisions after two rounds. The 144-player field features 67 Rolex Junior All-Americans and players from 30 states and five countries. After Friday's round, the field was cut to 77 players with the cut line at 7-over-par, 147, in the Boys Division and 15-over-par, 155, in the Girls Division. In the event's 29th year, the Rolex Tournament of Champions is one of 10 Invitationals on the AJGA schedule and is the longest running AJGA tournament.
Simon made four consecutive birdies on Nos. 1 thru 4, despite nursing a previous rotator cuff injury. Simon now sits at 1-over-par 141 for the tournament. This year's event is Simon's fourth showing in the Rolex Tournament of Champions.
“This year I really feel like I have a chance to compete,” Simon said. “I just want to concentrate on hitting from tee to green.”
One shot behind Simon, is last year's champion Esther Choe of Scottsdale, Ariz., who carded an even-par 70, giving her a 2-over-par tournament total of 142. Following Choe with tournament totals of 144 are Lizette Salas of Azusa, Calif., Glory Yang of Murrieta, Calif., Mina Harigae of Monterey, Calif., and Mindy Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif.
Looking toward the next two rounds, Simon said patience will be the key to winning, especially on the greens.
“It's a good course,” Simon said. “It's all about placement. The greens are tricky and three-putts can really creep up on you.”
Francis, recent winner of the Thunderbird International Junior, carded five birdies and no bogeys to be 4-under-par for the tournament with a total of 136.
“My game is overall more solid,” Francis said. “I'm not making as many mistakes and my putting has gotten better.”
Francis is seeking his fourth AJGA win this year.
“It would be really nice [to win here],” Francis said. “My goal is to get player of the year. I think if I play well the rest of the year, and especially if I win this, I'll have a really good chance.”
Following Francis in second place is Abraham Lee of La Canada, Calif., at 139. Tied for third place are Andrew Yun of Tacoma, Wash., Hunter Slatton of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Peter Uihlein of Bradenton, Fla. who carded matching 140 tournament totals.
Rolex Watch USA, which is in its third decade of support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. Along with sponsoring the Rolex Girls Junior Championship, Rolex is also the title partner of the Rolex Tournament of Champions and the proprietors of the Rolex Junior All-America Teams.
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA, the largest Association of its kind, has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 30 foreign countries.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which is in its third decade of support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 wins. AJGA alumni include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr, Candie Kung and Paula Creamer.
The third-round starting times of the Rolex Tournament of Champions will begin at 7 a.m. Saturday, July 8 off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees at Hiwan Golf Club. For more information, contact tournament headquarters at (303) 674-3366.