SONODA EARNS FIRST AJGA VICTORY AT THE BRIDGES GOLF CLUB
Kaneko dominates field, wins TEE UP Junior Challenge by 9 strokes
SAN RAMON, Calif. — Shunsuke Sonoda of Tokyo, Japan, traveled across the Pacific Ocean and posted a 1-over-par 217 tournament total to edge out a victory in the TEE UP Junior Challenge by one shot. Two-day leader Ayaka Kaneko of Honolulu, Hawaii, stole the show Monday posting a 2-under-par 214 tournament total to win the Girls Division title.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the TEE UP Junior Challenge was played at The Bridges Golf Club. The course played at 6,571 yards for the Boys Division and 5,846 yards for the Girls Division. The 54-hole stroke-play event featured 57 boys and 24 girls, ages 12-18, from 18 states and two countries, including 45 players from California.
Sonoda came to No. 17 with a two-stroke lead which the 16-year-old quickly relinquished with a double bogey. However, after a 165-yard 8-iron approach shot nestled close to the hole, he found himself standing over a four-foot birdie on No. 18 to clinch his first AJGA title.
“I wasn't nervous,” Sonoda said. “I putted good all week, especially on my short putts.”
When Sonoda's ball rattled against the back of the cup, it capped off a final-round 2-under-par 70 and a week in which he made nine birdies on the back nine, including four in his final round and five in a 4-under-par 32 he shot in the second round. Sonoda, who was invited to the event by the Japanese golf magazine TEE UP, acknowledged those who made his win possible.
“TEE UP sponsored this tournament, and they've been so kind to me all week,” Sonoda said. “I love to play AJGA, and I always enjoy the tournaments I play in.”
Austin Graham of San Clemente, Calif., fired a final-round 3-under-par 69 to post a 218 tournament total to finish second. Robert Shogry of Pittsburgh, Pa., Ravi Patel of Naperville, Ill., Tyler Morris of Encinitas, Calif., and Bryan Pierce of Arroyo Grande, Calif., finished in a four-way tie for third after each posted a 219 tournament total.
Kaneko began the day on a good foot, making birdie on the first hole. She was thankful for her 3-wood, which Kaneko said was the reason for her on-target tee shots. Kaneko was not alone on the golf course—she had a full gallery in tow, including the editor of TEE UP Magazine. Kaneko said it was helpful to have so much support.
“I'm happy to have people watch me play,” she said. “[Then] I have to play well.”
Making another birdie on No. 8 left Kaneko at 1-under-par 35 for the front nine, and from then on the 16-year-old focused on making par. With high aspirations of becoming a professional golfer, the high school senior was overjoyed with her first AJGA win.
“I always want to win a tournament,” Kaneko said. “But this summer I didn't win any, so I'm really happy.”
In the Girls Division, Lizette Salas of Azusa, Calif., took second place with a 223 tournament total. In third was Kylie Fuller of Temecula, Calif., finishing with a 224 tournament total.
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 largest Association of its kind, the AJGA has an annual membership (boys and girls) of more than 5,000 juniors from 49 states and more than 25 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 AJGA 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 Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Cristie Kerr, Pat Hurst, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Morgan Pressel.
For more information on the TEE UP Junior Challenge, or any other tournament, contact National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.