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The Westin Mission Hills Resort - Gary Player Course

Rancho Mirage, California

September 10-12, 2004



Four players one shot off the lead


RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.   Kellen Watabu of Kapaa, Hawaii, Blake Yu of Alameda, Calif., and Dylan Raines of Cave Creek, Ariz., all fired first-round 69s to share the lead at the Ashworth Junior at Rancho Mirage. The three players hold a one-stroke lead over four other players going into Sunday’s final round.

Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Ashworth Junior at Rancho Mirage is a 36-hole stroke play event, being held at The Westin Hills Resort – Gary Player Course, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The tournament features 81 of the nation’s premier junior golfers, ages 12-18. The Ashworth Junior Series was created specifically for first-time AJGA members or those who have not yet participated in an AJGA Open event, AJGA Invitational or Nike Golf Junior All-Star Series in the current calendar year or the previous calendar year.

Watabu, 16, got off to a strong start on the front-nine, carding birdies on Nos. 2 and 7. He continued his solid play on the back, finishing with birdies on Nos. 11 and 16. Watabu credited both his accuracy off the tee and his putter with keeping him under-par.

“I was hitting fairways with my driver and could have shot lower,” Watabu said. “My wedges let me down, but I feel comfortable with where I am. I am happy with the way I was putting out there.”

Watabu noted his 35-foot birdie on No. 11 as the highlight of his round. He was able to make another stellar shot on No. 16, where he stuck his approach shot to within five feet of the flag. He was able to sink the birdie putt from there and put himself into a tie for the lead.

Playing in the same pairing with Watabu was Yu, who shot a matching 69. He carded five birdies during the round, finishing with nines of 35 and 34. Yu carded birdies on Nos. 2, 5, 7, 10 and 11. In contrast to Watabu, Yu credited his solid iron play during the first round. After getting off to a slow start, Yu was able to quickly turn things around.

“I bogeyed Nos. 1 and 4,” Yu said. “It wasn’t the start I wanted, but I was all over the flag today and I really got it together. My approach shots were definitely the best they have been in a while.”

Yu’s approach shot on No. 2 landed inches from the hole, and he almost hit a hole-in-one on No. 5.

“I thought it was going in,” Yu said of his tee shot on the par-3 fifth. “I tried not to get excited out there and I plan on doing the same tomorrow. I just have to keep making pars and stick to the game plan I had coming in.”

Raines mentioned his putting as the key to the first-round, and his position atop the leaderboard. Raines finished with 35 on the front and 34 on the back nine. Raines finished with birdies on Nos. 6, 11 and 16.

“I just tried to hit fairways and greens today,” Raines said. “I really read my putts well and they had good speed. If I can shoot a 69 tomorrow, I believe that will put me in a good position,” he said.

 Chancellor Cota of Poway, Calif., Christopher Cunningham of San Diego, Calif., Kyle Andrews of Las Vegas and Bret Netzer of Kapaa, Hawaii, all sit one stroke back, after firing rounds of 2-under-par 70.

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 has a 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, a supporter of the AJGA since 1983, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004.

Final-round tee times will begin Sunday at 7 a.m. off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees at The Westin Mission Hills Resort – Gary Player Course. For more information on the Ashworth Junior at Rancho Mirage, please contact tournament headquarters at (760) 770-9496.