TEXAS NATIVE VELARDE AHEAD OF PACK WITH OPENING ROUND 1-UNDER-PAR 71
Connolly leads Girls Division with 76
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas â€” Garrett Velarde, of Houston, fired the day's lone sub-par round with a 1-under-par 71 to take the Boys Division lead during Saturday's first round of the Ashworth Junior at South Padre Island. Kerri Connolly of Duxbury, Mass., carded a 4-over-par 76 to lead the Girls Division.
The Ashworth Junior at South Padre Island is a 36-hole event conducted by the American Junior Golf Association at South Padre Island Golf Club's Bay Course. The event features 71 players from 10 states, Canada and Mexico, including 50 players from Texas.
Designed to provide more playing opportunities to juniors who have not yet played in AJGA tournaments, the Ashworth Junior at South Padre Island is one of eight events making up the AJGA's Ashworth Junior Series. Tournaments in the series serve as doorways into AJGA Open events as top finishers receive AJGA Performance Based Entry Tournament Exemptions and Performance Stars.
The Ashworth Junior at South Padre Island is one in a series of three Postseason events with other tournaments taking place in Dothan, Ala., and Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Velarde carded five birdies on the day including consecutive birdies on Nos. 5 and 6 and 16 and 17. He was able to hit 10 fairways and 15 greens in regulation during his round.
â€śI went out and played safely, hitting fairways and greens,â€ť the 15-year-old said. â€śA bad shot on No. 15 cost me a solid round.â€ť
Three players stand behind Velarde tied for second place. Kevin Anderson of Los Angeles, Diego Castilla of Monterrey, Mexico, and Grant Givan of Forth Worth, Texas, all shot opening-round 72s. Alone in fifth place is Ryan Kelley of The Woodlands, Texas, with a 73.
In the Girls Division, Connolly credited her ability to keep the ball in play, which led to scoring opportunities.
â€śI hit my drives fairly straight all day,â€ť Connolly said. â€śThe placements of your tee shots are important out here.â€ť
Carding 10 fairways and 12 greens in regulation, Connolly was able to stay consistent throughout the day.
â€śOn No. 17, I set myself up with a good drive to the fairway that allowed me to tap in later for birdie,â€ť Connolly said.
Elizabeth Freeman of Anderson, S.C., sits in second place after carding a 5-over-par 77. Brianna Coopman of Georgetown, Texas, is in third place with an 8-over-par 80.
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 a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 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 enters 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 200 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 280 wins. AJGA alumni include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Dottie Pepper, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Beth Bauer.
The final round of the Ashworth Junior at South Padre Island will begin Sunday at South Padre Island Golf Club's Bay Course with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. For more information on the Ashworth Junior at South Padre Island, please call tournament headquarters at (956) 943-5678.