KANG COMES FROM SIX SHOTS BACK TO WIN MAYAKOBA JUNIOR GOLF CLASSIC
Jin shoots 4-under-par 67 to capture Girls Division at El Camaleón Golf Club
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Quintana Roo, Mexico — Jeffrey Kang of Fullerton, Calif., fired a final-round 5-under-par 65 to come from six shots behind and capture the Boys Division title at the inaugural Mayakoba Junior Golf Classic Golf Monday. Pearl Jin of San Gabriel, Calif., carded a 4-under-par 67 to take the Girls Division crown with a 4-under-par 209 tournament total.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Mayakoba Junior Golf Classic was the AJGA's first Open event in Mexico. The field consisted of 76 players, 19 of whom were from Mexico, as well as from 16 U.S. states and Canada. The 54-hole stroke play event was held at El Camaleón Golf Club, which played at 6,911 yards, par 70 for the Boys Division and 6,047 yards, par 71 for the Girls Division. El Camaleón Golf Club is home to the PGA TOUR's Mayakoba Golf Classic, the first-ever TOUR event in Mexico.
Beginning the day six shots off the lead, Kang said he did not start his round with thoughts of winning. But an impressive up-and-down on the third hole got his momentum going. Kang plugged his tee shot in a fairway bunker, and took two shots to reach the green. He drained a 20-foot uphill putt to save par.
“My putting is really what carried me through the day,” Kang said. “I struggled a little with my tee shots on the front nine, so my putting really saved me.”
Kang played in the group in front of the leaders and never knew what else was happening on the course. Gaining confidence after No. 3, Kang went on to record five birdies and no bogeys en route to a 3-under-par 207 tournament total. The victory is Kang's first AJGA win. His previous best finish was third place at the 2006 Mission Hills Desert Junior.
“It's really exciting that my first win came in Mexico,” Kang said. “Now I've got to win at home too.”
Second-round leader Juan Pablo Hernandez of Mexico City, finished one shot back at 2-under-par 208. Sebastian Szirmak of Toronto, and Colby Smith of Auburn, Calif., tied for third place with matching 2-over-par 212s. Diego Castilla of Monterrey, Mexico, finished in fifth place with a 3-over-par 213.
In the Girls Division, Jin started her day tied for the lead with Alicia Malagon of Tampico, Mexico. Competing in her first AJGA event, Jin said she was nervous heading into the final round with the lead. Her strategy was to take each shot one at a time and not get too overwhelmed.
“I was nervous, but I knew I had to be able to concentrate today,” Jin said. “Once I started playing, I felt like I could really score out there.”
On No. 2, her 11th hole of the day, Jin found herself one shot back of Malagon. A birdie gave her renewed confidence, and Jin went on to card birdies on No. 4 and 8 for a back-side 3-under-par 33. Jin, at 12 years and four months old, becomes the third-youngest AJGA winner this season. She was the youngest player to compete at the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, where she reached the second round of match play.
“I'm definitely looking forward to playing in more events,” Jin said. “The level of competition helps me play better.”
Malagon shot a final-round even-par 71 for a tournament total even-par 213. Stephanie Meadow of Hilton Head Island, S.C., and Erynne Lee of Silverdale, Wash., tied for third place with matching 7-over-par 220s.
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 a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of more than 5,000 junior golfers 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. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Polo Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
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, Morgan Pressel and Julieta Granada.
For more information about the Mayakoba Junior Golf Classic, please call AJGA national headquarters at (770) 868-4200.