KENTUCKY IS HOME FOR WIRE-TO-WIRE WINNERS AT BELLEFONTE COUNTRY CLUB
Thomas gets first win in Boys Division, Koller holds off field in Girls Division at Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior
ASHLAND, Ky. — To say the final-round went smoothly for Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky., and Nikki Koller of Lewisburg, Ky., would not be the whole truth. But for the two Kentucky natives, having comfortable leads headed into the final-round of the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior made things a little easier. Thomas won the Boys Division by seven strokes at 64-72-70—206. In the Girls Division, Koller finished five strokes ahead of her nearest competition at 73-70-81—224.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior was played at the Bellefonte Country Club. The tournament field consisted of 117 players, 88 boys and 29 girls from 19 states. The Boys Division was played at 6,028 yards and the Girls Division at 5,625 yards.
Playing in his third Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior, Thomas, 15, has known for some time that his first AJGA win would come at this event.
“It's awesome to get the win and to get it here is even better,” Thomas said.
Struggling on the front nine, Thomas made a 15-foot putt to save par on No. 9, and in turn prepped himself for a strong back nine.
“I made a great par there and that got me going,” Thomas said. “Then I went for the green with my drive on eleven, and it worked out for a two-putt birdie.”
Propelled by back-to-back birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, and again on 17 and 18, Thomas was able to finish his round with a 3-under 33 on the back nine.
“I did not want to shoot over par today,” he said. “Thankfully I was able to play my game and it came together at the end.”
Tied for second at 3-over-par 213 were Blanton Farmer of Lexington, Ky., and Patrick Rodgers of Avon, Ind. Rodgers shot the low final-round score of 4-under-par 66, including a 5-under-par 30 on the back nine. Finishing fourth was Matt Buse of Loveland, Ohio at 6-over-par 216. In a tie for fifth-place was Ryan Gay of Pittston, Maine, and Corey Ziedonis of Indianapolis, Ind., at 217.
In the Girls Division, Koller struggled more than some of her fellow competitors throughout the final day. Though the day was disappointing for Koller, the Arizona commit is still excited about her first open win.
“It's very exciting to win,” Koller said. “What I did today was not the same as the first two days, but I got through it.”
Rounding out the top-three in the Girls Division were Stani Schiavone of Bangor, Pa., at 81-73-75—229. One-stroke back of Schiavone at 75-75-80—230, was Kyung Kim of Chandler, Ariz.
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 junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of more than 5,000 junior golfers from 49 states and more than 25 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 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 Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior please contact AJGA National Headquarters at 770-868-4200.
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