LATE BIRDIE PROPELS BACK INTO LEAD AT 4-UNDER-PAR
Recent AJGA champion records eight birdies on the day to take control of Junior PLAYERS Championship
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. â€” James Back of Cerritos, Calif., sunk a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 18 of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass to post a 4-under-par 68 and take a one-stroke lead after the first round at The Junior PLAYERS Championship Friday. Julian Suri of St. Augustine, Fla., Lucas Bjerregaard of Frederikshavn, Denmark, and Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos, Calif., all trail by a shot after posting 3-under-par 69s.
The PGA TOUR, in cooperation with the American Junior Golf Association, brought 78 players from 18 states and 12 foreign countries to TPC Sawgrass for a special junior golf experience. The Junior PLAYERS Championship, mirrored after THE PLAYERS, is being played on the par-72 THE PLAYERS Stadium Course. The course is setup at 7,215 yards, the same as the PGA TOUR event that brings together the deepest tournament field in professional golf. Tournament participants are furnished with professional caddies, access to the TOUR locker room and tournament gifts that give this event a PGA TOUR-like feel.
Back, who is currently ranked No. 16 in the Polo Golf Rankings, recorded eight birdies on his round. His only blemishes came on Nos. 8 (bogey), 12 (double bogey) and 14 (bogey), keeping him within shouting distance of the rest of the field.
â€śI just played like a machine today,â€ť he said. â€śI hit fairway, green and two- or one-putted. I hope I can keep this up for the next two days. I felt like I was lucky to shoot this round on such a tough golf course.â€ť
His final birdie was the most important, he said. While walking up the 462-yard, par-4 18th, he noticed the leaderboard reporting the current leaders at 3-under-par. After his second shot left him 15 feet to take the lead, he paid close attention to a fellow competitor's putt that gave him the line he needed to make the tricky left-to-right downhill slider.
â€śI was 50-50 whether or not I even wanted to make the putt or just hit it up there,â€ť he said. â€śTo be honest, I actually wanted to just two-putt, but it was a lucky putt and it went in.â€ť
Back is a two-time AJGA champion, with his most recent win coming at the PING Phoenix Junior just two weeks ago. He also has two top-10 finishes in AJGA Invitationals in 2008
â€śI'm just going to play my game and not worry about a score tomorrow,â€ť he explained. â€śFairway, green, two-putt, that's my plan, and I hope it will work like it did today.â€ť
Suri and Bjerregaard will join Back in the lead group tomorrow in the 9:48 tee time off No. 1 after posting their 3-under-par 69s early. Cantlay will tee off at 9:39 with Cameron Peck of Olympia, Wash., and Evan Beck of Virginia Beach, Va., who are tied for fifth after rounds of 2-under-par 70.
Second-round action will begin off the first and 10th tees of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course Sarurday at 8 a.m. Spectators are welcome to attend and admission is free of charge.
For more information about The Junior PLAYERS Championship, contact AJGA Tournament Headquarters at (904) 273-2381 or visit the tournament Web site at ajga.org.
- AJGA -
About the American Junior Golf Association
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 approximately 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 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.
ABOUT THE PGA TOUR
The PGA TOUR is a tax-exempt membership organization of professional golfers. Its primary purpose is to provide competitive earnings opportunities for past, current and future members of the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour; to protect the integrity of the game; and to help grow the reach of the game in the U.S. and around the world.
In 2008, the three Tours will compete in approximately 108 events for approximately $355 million in prize money. Tournaments are being held in nine countries outside the U.S. and in 37 states.
In addition to providing competitive opportunities for its membership, TOUR events also generate significant funds for local charities. In fact, the three Tours have surpassed the $1 billion mark in overall charitable contributions. The PGA TOUR's web site address is www.pgatour.com and the company is headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.