Decker Wins in Playoff at Golf Pride Junior Classic to Get First AJGA Win
Park defends title, wins by two at National Golf Club
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Andrew Decker of Greenville, N.C., birdied the first playoff hole to clinch his first AJGA victory at 1-under-par 215. In the Girls Division, Ri Hyang Park of Hilton Head Island, S.C., defended her Golf Pride Junior Classic title with a three-day total of 6-over-par 222.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Golf Pride Junior Classic was a 54-hole stroke play event held at National Golf Club. The field featured 78 boys and 21 girls, ages 12-18, from 17 states, Mexico, Thailand and Italy. The par-72 course played at 7,085 yards in the Boys Division and 6,215 yards in the Girls Division.
Decker started the day three back of Chad Cox of Charlotte, N.C., but quickly found himself in the lead when he got to 3-under with a birdie on the par-4 11th while Cox hit a rough patch midway through the round.
But Decker knew it wasn't the last he would hear from Cox. Sure enough, Cox picked up birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 to tie Decker at 1-under after Decker doubled No. 13.
“I knew he was going to come back,” Decker said. “I was preparing myself for him to come back.”
On No. 17, Cox and Decker both left themselves difficult up-and-downs from off the green. Cox chipped up to 20 feet and missed his putt, but Decker followed by knocking down a 12-footer to save his par and retake the lead.
Going into No. 18, Decker again prepared himself for another Cox comeback.
“I was thinking he was going to birdie it,” Decker said. “I was just trying to hit the fairway, then the green and make par.”
Decker split the fairway and hit his approach to 20 feet, all but sealing the victory after Cox followed by missing the green to the left. Decker cozied his par putt to a foot and tapped in to finish at 1-under-par, but his day was not yet over.
After fighting off Cox, Decker was left to fight off M.J. Maguire of St. Petersburg, Fla., who snuck in at 1-under-par after firing a 68 in the final round.
“I figured there was going to be a playoff,” Decker said. “I figured somebody had to go low today. After that, I knew I had to go into playoff mode.”
Standing on the first playoff hole, the par-5 10th, with Maguire, Decker's focus was simple.
“I was thinking, ‘just swing and don't think,'” Decker said. “Turns out, I hit a pretty good drive and had 180 (yards) in. I wasn't going to go for it because that wasn't my plan from the beginning. So, I layed up left of the green as close as I could so that I could still hit a bump and run. I just wanted to give myself a chance.”
Decker left himself four feet for his birdie, while Maguire had to save a five-footer for par after hitting his tee shot into the water. Maguire missed, but Decker knocked his right into the middle of the cup to clinch his first AJGA win.
“I've been trying for so long to get top 5s to become fully exempt so that I can have the opportunity to win,” Decker said. “It's awesome, it really is. You can't beat AJGA competition, especially playing this tournament. People come from all over to play Golf Pride.”
Cox finished third at 2-over-par 218. Carter Page of Waynesville, N.C., was fourth at 4-over-par 220 and Connor Black of Katy, Texas, Kevin Jorden of Juno Beach, Fla., and Sawyer Shaw of West Palm Beach, Fla., all tied for fifth at 5-over-par 221.
Park was three back through nine holes but a birdie on No. 4 closed the gap to two. After three straight pars, Park birdied the par-5 8th to tie Chanpalangsri at 6-over-par.
“I knew I needed a birdie to tie,” Park said. “I wasn't really trying to make it. I was just trying to put a good stroke on it, but it wound up going in.”
On the par-3 9th, Park hit her tee shot to 15 feet while Chanpalangsri found the water short of the green. After leaving herself five feet, Park was still thinking she had to make her putt.
“I knew if I bogeyed I would still win, but I wanted to finish with par,” Park said. “It looks a lot better on the scorecard afterward.”
After starting the tournament three shots off the pace, Park fought back to finish at 6-over-par 222 and to defend her Golf Pride Junior Classic title.
“I'm really glad I won,” Park said. “My family back in Japan will be really excited.”
Chanpalangsri finished second at 8-over-par 224 and Allison Emrey of Charlotte, N.C., was third at 9-over-par 225.
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 30 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.
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. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 400 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.
For more information about the Golf Pride Junior Classic, please contact AJGA National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.