KRAFT, FREEMAN TAKE HOME MEDALIST HONORS AT SOUTH PADRE ISLAND
Gusty winds stir Boys and Girls Division leaderboards
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — Kelly Kraft, 16, of Denton, Texas, and Elizabeth Freeman, 15, of Anderson, S.C., both came from behind to claim medalist honors Sunday at the Ashworth Junior at South Padre Island Sunday. Kraft fired a closing-round 3-under-par 69 to overcome his four-stoke deficit after round one, while Freeman carded a 9-over-par 81 to come from one stroke back.
The Ashworth Junior at South Padre Island was a 36-hole event conducted by the American Junior Golf Association at South Padre Island Golf Club's Bay Course. The event featured 67 players from 10 states, Canada and Mexico, including 47 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 was 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 was one in a series of three Postseason events Saturday and Sunday, with other tournaments taking place in Dothan, Ala., and Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Kraft, who was participating in his first AJGA event, played a flawless front nine, inking two birdies and no bogeys to make the turn at 2-under-par 34. After his third birdie of the day on No. 13, he stumbled on Nos. 14 and 15 by making back-to-back bogeys. He recovered well by making birdie on Nos. 16 and 17, erasing his previous miscues. He closed with a 1-under-par 35, leaving him alone at the top of the leaderboard with a 75-69—144 tournament total, seven strokes clear of second-place finishers Robert Plucienski of Slidell, La., and Diego Castilla, of Monterrey, Mexico, at 151.
“I spent a lot of time after (Saturday's) round to get the speed of the greens right and it paid off,” Kraft said. “Overall, I played pretty well and was happy to get some tournament exemptions.”
Rounding out the top five, Kevin Anderson of Los Angeles finished in fourth at 153 and John Darden of Frisco, Texas, finished in fifth at 154.
In the Girls Division, Freeman, who also was playing in an AJGA event for the first time, credited her focus on playing the course, not her competitors, to her success. Her 77-81—158 tournament total was good enough to overtake first-round leader Kerri Connolly of Duxbury, Mass., by three stokes on the day, two for the tournament. Kaitlin Hovda of Weslaco, Texas, finished alone in third at 165.
“With the conditions, I really just tried to keep the ball in play,” Freeman said. “I always heard about the great competition at AJGA events. It's been a great experience, something I learned a lot from.”
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.
For more information on the American Junior Golf Association, please call the AJGA's National Headquarters at (877) 373-2542.