ROLEX JUNIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR FRANCIS SHINES IN FIRST ROUND
Harigae holds one-stroke lead in Girls Division
SEA ISLAND, Ga. — Rolex Junior Player of the Year Philip Francis of Scottsdale, Ariz., began the Polo Golf Junior Classic with a bang Monday, firing a 6-under-par 66 to take a two-shot lead in the Boys Division after the first round of medal play. In the Girls Division, Mina Harigae of Monterey, Calif., carded a 2-under-par 68 for a one-stroke lead.
The Polo Golf Junior Classic, which has been conducted annually since 1978, marks the first tournament of the AJGA's 2007 season. The 162-player invitation-only field is made up of boys and girls ages 12-18 from 29 states and six foreign countries. Former champions include Stewart Cink (1989), Trevor Immelman (1995), Tiger Woods (1991), Paula Creamer (2002), Grace Park (1994, 1996) and Morgan Pressel (2004).
Francis started his round on a strong note, carding birdie on the Plantation Course's par-4 first hole. The 17-year-old, who had five victories in 2006, continued to gain momentum on the front nine, recording back-to-back birdies on holes No. 4 and 5 for a front-nine total 3-under-par 33.
Francis remained hot on the back side beginning with a birdie on the par-4 10th. He drained two more birdie putts for a back-nine total of 33. Francis, who has committed to play for UCLA in 2007, was pleased with his performance but knows there is still a lot of golf to be played.
“Obviously becoming medalist and winning the tournament was my goal coming into the event,” Francis said. “The No. 1 seed gets knocked off early all the time, though, so at this point it's all about getting into match play. From now on, anything can happen.”
Jed Dirksen of Hampton, Iowa, Morgan Hoffmann of Wyckoff, N.J., and Ji Moon of Lake Mary, Fla., fired matching 4-under-par 68s to tie for second. Jhared Hack of Heathrow, Fla., Arnond Vongvanij of Bradenton, Fla., and David Yujin Chung of Fayetteville, N.C., shot 3-under-par 69s to tie for fifth.
In the Girls Division, Harigae, who started on No. 10, began her round on a solid note with a birdie on the Seaside Course's par-3 12th hole. She kept the momentum going and recorded another birdie on the par-3 17th for a front-nine total of 2-under-par 33.
Harigae, the 2005 Polo Golf Junior Classic runner-up, played consistently on the back nine, carding seven pars en route to an even-par 35. The 17-year-old is looking to continue her strong play in Wednesday's second round.
“Coming into today's round I just wanted to have a solid round, which I did,” Harigae said. “Tomorrow I just want to do the same and focus on each shot. I don't want to get too ahead of myself.”
Brooke Pancake of Chattanooga, Tenn., Glory Yang of Murrieta, Calif., and Tiffany Lua of Rowland Heights, Calif., carded matching 1-under-par 69s to finish in a tie for second.
Second-round play will continue Tuesday with tee times running from 7:30-9:27 a.m. off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees of the Seaside and Plantation Courses at Sea Island Golf Club.
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 more than 5,000 junior golfers from 49 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, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Cristie Kerr, Pat Hurst, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Morgan Pressel.
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