Dalke becomes youngest boys AJGA Invitational champion, claims victory at Thunderbird International Junior
Chung pulls away from field, wins by six at Grayhawk Golf Club
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After a bold second shot on the par-5 18th hole went awry, Brad Dalke of McKinney, Texas, sunk a 20-foot par putt that kept him at 5-under-par and gave him his first AJGA victory Monday at the Thunderbird International Junior. With the win, Dalke becomes the AJGA's youngest boys Invitational champion at the age of 13 years, 9 months and 11 days, and the third-youngest boys champion in AJGA history.
In the Girls Division, Karen Chung of Livingston, N.J., posted the second-lowest 54-hole total in tournament history and won by six shots at Grayhawk Golf Club.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the 12th annual Thunderbird International Junior was a 54-hole stroke play event played at Grayhawk Golf Club's Raptor Course. The 78-player field featured 48 boys and 30 girls, ages 12-18, from 17 states and 16 countries. The Boys Division played the par-72 layout at 7,112 yards and the Girls Division played at 6,275 yards.
Dalke prevailed over second-round leader Billy Kennerly of Alpharetta, Ga., and Jake Higginbottom of Charlestown, Australia, in a heated back-nine battle.
Playing in the group ahead of Kennerly and Higginbottom, Dalke led by one and had 193 yards from the fairway bunker on the 18th hole. The bravely struck 4-iron found the water hazard short of the green, which meant Dalke had to get up-and-down to save par and post 5-under-par.
“I've been hitting my long irons good this week, and I thought I hit it good but it kept going and going,” Dalke said. “But layup really wasn't in my mind.”
The par save became more difficult when his flubbed chip shot didn't reach the putting surface. Despite his previous two shots, Dalke walked in a 20-foot par putt and set off a roar from the gallery.
“I was pretty confident over that putt, actually,” Dalke said. “I was shaking but I felt like I had a good read on it and it went in.”
Fifteen minutes later, Kennerly and Higginbottom faced birdie putts that would have forced a playoff. Kennerly's 25-footer settled painfully on the edge of the hole, while Higginbottom's 10-footer lipped out on the high side, giving Dalke the one-shot victory.
Three players finished tied for fourth at 3-under-par: Motin Yeung of Orlando, Fla., AJ McInerney of Henderson, Nev., and Yi Keun Chang of Walnut, Calif.
In the Girls Division, Chung and her nearest competitor, Simin Feng of Orlando, Fla., held serve on the front nine and her lead remained at three with nine holes to play. Birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 gave Chung a comfortable six-shot cushion.
“After I reached the back nine, I think I only had a three-shot lead. I calmed down and I told myself ‘A three-shot lead is a lot in this tournament,' and I just kept focusing,” Chung said.
Her 7-under-par 209 total (68-70-71) is tied for the second-lowest total in tournament history, falling short only to Kimberly Kim's 10-under-par performance in 2007.
“This is my first Invitational win and it feels so good,” said Chung, who now owns four AJGA victories. “My first two rounds I got really lucky on a couple shots, I scored really well. Today I was kind of shaky in the beginning but I got it back in the end.”
Feng finished second at 1-under-par 215 (68-73-74), while Ashlan Ramsey of Milledgeville, Ga., finished third at even-par 216 (70-72-74). Lindsey Weaver of Scottsdale, Ariz., carded a final-round 69 to move 12 spots up the leaderboard and finish tied for fifth at 3-over-par.
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 provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships, and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 49 states and more than 40 countries. To ensure scholarship opportunities for all junior golfers who have the skill, the AJGA created the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant program to provide financial assistance to young players in need.
As in the past, Callaway Golf will lend its support to the event. Other major sponsors are the Thunderbirds, the Phil and Amy Mickelson Charitable Fund and Grayhawk Golf Club.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 500 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park and Morgan Pressel.
For more information about the Thunderbird International Junior, please contact AJGA National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.