THOMAS COMES FROM BEHIND FOR FOOTJOY INVITATIONAL TITLE
Paolucci and Lovelady finish tied for second at Sedgefield Country Club
GREENSBORO, N.C. â€” Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky., used seven final-round birdies as fuel to climb up the leaderboard Friday and win the FootJoy Invitational. By winning the tournament, Thomas claimed a sponsor's exemption to the PGA TOUR's Wyndham Championship. Thomas shot 3-under-par 67 for the day, giving him a tournament total of 8-under-par 272.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the FootJoy Invitational was a 72-hole stroke play event held at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. The 99-player field featured golfers from 25 states and 10 foreign countries. The field included 28 players who have already signed National Letters of Intent to play in college as well as 25 Rolex Junior All-Americans. Home of the PGA TOUR's Wyndham Championship, the par-70 course was played at 7,118 yards. Past champions of this event include Brian Harman, Daniel Woltman, Andrew Yun, Peter Uihlein and Cameron Peck.
Thomas started the day three strokes back of third-round co-leaders Jordan Spieth of Dallas, and Ian McConnell of Riverview, Fla., but he steadily gained strokes during a front nine that saw him uncork four birdies. By the turn, Thomas was just two strokes back of Richard Werenski of South Hadley, Mass., who was 9-under-par at that point.
For his part, Thomas felt like he was in the mix from the start of the day.
â€śIt's a tough course, but if you hit fairways and you get it in the right spot on the greens, you can make a lot of birdies out here,â€ť Thomas said. â€śI felt the pins were going to be tougher, if I just do what I need to do, and make birdies and take advantage of my opportunities, then I knew I could have a chance.â€ť
After the leaders made their way to the back nine, the 16-year-old capitalized as Sedgefield's greens exacted a toll on the other players. When his birdie putt hit the bottom of the hole on No. 15, Thomas had pulled into a tie with Werenski for first.
It was on the 406-yard, par-4 17th where the final moves were made, as Thomas' approach put him in position to take the lead for good.
â€śI had trouble hitting the drive on that hole all week. I just wanted to get it up that left side because I knew the pin was on that front right,â€ť Thomas said. â€śI hit a good drive and I hit a good second shot. I was nervous, but I knew that putt was going in. Just a little right-to-left putt, and I'd been putting well all day, and I just fortunately made it.â€ť
That birdie and a Werenski bogey minutes later meant Thomas had a two-shot lead after teeing off at No. 18. Although he wound up bogeying the hole, no one was left to threaten his lead after 72 holes, and the FootJoy Invitational trophy was hoisted by the Kentucky native.
Tied for second below Thomas were Anthony Paolucci of Dallas, and Tom Lovelady of Birmingham, Ala., who both finished at 6-under-par 274 for the tournament. Spieth finished in fourth at 5-under-par 275 and Werenski came in fifth at 4-under-par 276.
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 50 states and more than 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 andd professional golf. More than 200 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 350 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 FootJoy Invitational, please contact AJGA National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.