WHITSETT'S 3-UNDER-PAR 69 GOOD FOR FIRST-ROUND LEAD AT THE PING INVITATIONAL
Four players tied atop Girls Division at Karsten Creek Golf Club
STILLWATER, Okla. — The fairways were tight, the rough was thick, the greens were fast, and the wind was stiff at Karsten Creek Golf Club during Saturday's first round of The PING Invitational. Even so, Cory Whitsett of Houston caught fire en route to a remarkable 3-under-par 69 in the Boys Division, while the girls were led by four players at 3-over-par 75.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, The PING Invitational is a 54-hole stroke play event being held at Karsten Creek Golf Club. The 78-player field features players from 21 states, Argentina, Colombia, Denmark, Mexico and South Korea. The Boys Division is playing Karsten Creek Golf Club at 7,285 yards, while the Girls Division is playing at 6,273 yards.
Whitsett shot even-par on the front before making four birdies on the back. He was one of only two players to finish under-par in the first round.
“It was a hard day,” Whitsett said. “The first few holes I played a little pinball. I'd make birdie, bogey, birdie, bogey. I was killing my momentum.”
After that rocky start, Whitsett managed to gain some momentum at No. 14, where he made the first of three straight birdies.
“I hit the ball really solid,” he said. “I putted well for the most part. I had two three-putts, but that will happen out here if you get in in the wrong place on the green.”
Anthony Paolucci of Dallas is one stroke back in second place at 2-under-par 70, while Jordan Spieth, also of Dallas, is in third at 1-over-par 73. Cheng-Tsung Pan of Upland, Calif., is in fourth place at 2-over-par 74.
In the Girls Division, Tiffany Lua of Rowland Heights, Calif., is atop the leaderboard after the first round for the second straight year. This time, however, she shares the lead with Jennifer Johnson of La Quinta, Calif., Stacey Kim of Columbus, Ga., and Kristen Park of Buena Park, Calif., all of whom shot 3-over-par 75.
“It was a long day for everyone,” Lua said. “This course tests your patience from one to 18. You just have to stay patient. In my three years here, the greens are the fastest they've ever been.”
Johnson closed her round with three straight birdies to charge into the first-place tie.
“I was off to a rough start, so I'm happy I finished strong,” she said. “I pulled it together.”
Kim said the wind was a big factor, but echoed the sentiment about the greens.
“The greens were so difficult today,” she said. “Every green is tough. There's not a hole where you get a break.”
Park made two birdies and was happy to get them.
“I stayed really patient,” Park said. “You can't really expect to make putts here.”
So how did she make those birdies? “I just stuck it really close.”
One shot behind the leaders in fifth place at 4-over-par 76 is Jenny Shin of Torrance, Calif.
This week's tournament title partner, PING, designs, manufactures and markets a complete line of golf equipment including metal woods, irons, putters and golf bags. The family-owned company was founded in 1959 by the late Karsten Solheim. Solheim is the only person to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame as a golf club manufacturer. Today, the Phoenix-based company is under the direction of Solheim's youngest son, John A. Solheim. PING game-improvement products can be found in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit www.pinggolf.com.
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 49 states and 25 foreign countries.
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 Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Cristie Kerr, Pat Hurst, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Morgan Pressel.
Second-round tee times for The PING Invitational will run from 8 — 10:00 a.m. off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees at Karsten Creek Golf Club. For more information on The PING Invitational, please contact Tournament Headquarters at (405) 533-2883.