GUTHRIE, WHITSETT FIRE 6-UNDER-PAR 66, SHARE BOYS DIVISION LEAD
Kimberly Kim holds two-stroke advantage in Girls Division
REUNION, Fla. — Luke Guthrie of Quincy, Ill., and Cory Whitsett of Houston, tamed Ginn Reunion Resort's Legacy (Palmer) Course, firing 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead after the first round of stroke play at the Polo Golf Junior Classic. Kimberly Kim of Pahoa, Hawaii, sits atop the Girls Division leaderboard with a 5-under-par 67 on the Independence (Watson) Course.
The Polo Golf Junior Classic, which has been conducted annually since 1978, marks the first tournament of the American Junior Golf Association's 2008 season. The 160-player invitation-only field is made up of boys and girls ages 12-18 from 29 states and 11 foreign countries. Former champions include Stewart Cink (1989), Trevor Immelman (1995), Tiger Woods (1991), Paula Creamer (2002), Grace Park (1994, 1996) and Morgan Pressel (2004).
After playing two practice rounds at Ginn Reunion Resort, Guthrie came into the first round believing he would have to shoot a low score to be in contention to make match play. He got off to a strong start with a birdie on the par-5 No. 10, his first hole of the day.
“At the U.S. Junior, I finished at the bottom of stroke play and had some really tough matches off the bat,” Guthrie said. “Here, I'm trying to get a high seed and hopefully not have as difficult a road.”
Despite the solid start, Guthrie struggled on the front nine, particularly with his driver. After making the turn he was able to find his swing, and carded four birdies in his last seven holes.
Whitsett, who won the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in July, had a different philosophy than Guthrie heading into the first round.
“Making match play is my number one priority. I was talking with my dad and he told me this morning that no one remembered my seed after I won the U.S. Junior Amateur,” Whitsett said. “So that's the mentality I'm taking with stroke play — no one will remember my seed, whether it's 32 or one — if I win the whole thing.”
Whitsett put himself in good position to make match play with a front-nine, 2-under-par 34 and a back-side, 4-under-par 32. Whitsett was frustrated with his performance on the green early in his round, but his putter caught fire toward the end. He recorded four consecutive birdies in his final four holes to close with a tie for the lead.
Guthrie and Whitsett were not the only players to conquer the Legacy (Palmer) Course. Forty-four players shot par or better, and the Boys Division scoring average registered at 72.5.
Bo Andrews of Raleigh, N.C., and Alex Kang of Oak Park, Calif., are tied for third place at 5-under-par 67. Tied for fifth place at 4-under-par 68 are Bud Cauley of Jacksonville, Fla., Pontus Widegren of Danderyd, Sweden, Gregor Main of Danville, Calif., William Kropp of Edmond, Okla., Mu Hu of Shen Zhen, China, and Matthew Schovee of Cherry Hills Village, Colo.
In the Girls Division, Kim felt she played consistent from the moment she stepped on the first tee to when she holed out for par on No. 18. Her bogey-free round featured a 3-under-par 33 on the front nine, including a birdie on the par-5 first hole, and a 2-under-par 34 on the back side.
“I hit it really well today - I didn't miss many greens and made a few putts,” Kim said. “I think my group was having more fun than anything and that kept me really loose.”
Kim came into the week determined to shoot a low first-round score. Two years ago, she missed the cut after losing a sudden-death playoff. Kim wanted to separate herself from the field early on to ensure her spot in Wednesday's first round of match play. Like Whitsett, Kim believes which spot she gets is not as important as just making it there.
“I don't really think about seeding,” Kim said. “Eventually all the girls will have to play each other. Just making the cut is what is on my mind.”
Danielle Frasier of Encinitas, Calif., stands alone in second place with a 3-under-par 69. Jaclyn Sweeney of Bradenton, Fla., Jennifer Johnson of La Quinta, Calif., and Kyndall Ardoin of Gibsland, La., are tied for third place after carding matching 2-under-par 70s.
Second-round play will continue Tuesday with tee times running from 7:30-9:27 a.m. off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees of the Legacy (Palmer) and Independence (Watson) Courses at Ginn Reunion Resort.
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.
Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation is a leader in the design, marketing and distribution of premium lifestyle products in four categories: apparel, home, accessories and fragrances. For more than 40 years, Polo's reputation and distinctive image have been consistently developed across an expanding number of products, brands and international markets. The Company's brand names, which include "Polo by Ralph Lauren," "Ralph Lauren Purple Label," "Ralph Lauren," "Black Label," "Blue Label," "Lauren by Ralph Lauren," "Polo Jeans Co.," "RRL," "RLX," "Rugby," "RL Childrenswear," "Chaps," and "Club Monaco" among others, constitute one of the world's most widely recognized families of consumer brands. For more information, go to http://investor.polo.com.
For more information about the Polo Golf Junior Classic, please contact Tournament Director Andrew Greenfield at (770) 601-8922.