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River Ridge Golf Club
Lompoc, Calif. • July 25 - 28

Park's 73 leads Girls Division at Nike Golf Junior at Marshallia

LOMPOC, Calif. —  Dustin Rhone of Culver City, Calif., and Andrew Perez of Oxnard, Calif., share a 3-stroke lead in the Boys Division at the Nike Golf Junior at Marshallia after firing rounds of 4-under-par 68. Kristen Park jumped to the front of the Girls Division with a round of 73 on Tuesday. Her round of 1-over-par gives her a one stroke advantage heading into play Wednesday.

The Nike Golf Junior at Marshallia, conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, features 79 boys and 15 girls — ages 12-15 — from nine states and three foreign countries. The event is being staged on the 6,561-yard, par-72 Marshallia Ranch Golf Course (Girls Division played at 5,518 yards).

After finishing in a tie for third place last week at the PING Junior at Diablo Grande, Rhone continued his strong play. He began the day making par on the first five holes, before going 2-under-par on the last four holes of the front nine. Rhone moved to 3-under with an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 10, but went on to bogey No. 13. He rebounded quickly by making a birdie on the next hole moving again to 3-under, and not carding a bogey the rest of the round. On the 450-yard, par-5 No. 18, he hit his third shot to within two feet of the hole. He made his short birdie putt and finished his round at 68.

The 15-year-old won the Ashworth Junior at Diablo Grande in 2004, and after a strong finish last week, hopes for good results this week.

“I feel confident,” he said. “My game feels as good as it has in a long time.”

Perez, also 15-years-old, came out of the gate strong going 2-under-par through his first five holes. He then hit a bump in the road. After consecutive bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7, he made par on No. 8, and a birdie on No. 9 to finish the front nine 1-under.

A 25-foot par-putt on No. 11 got things going for Perez, as he played the back nine 3-under par, moving him into a tie for the lead at 4-under.

Perez, playing in his first AJGA event, felt the pressure on the first tee.

“I was nervous on No. 1 because the first hole sets the tone for the day,” he said. “But I feel comfortable now, and I want to play better tomorrow.”

Cory Whitsett of Houston, finished the round in third at 71. Five players finished in a tie for fourth at even-par 72, they are: Evan Emerick of Oceanside, Calif., Dong Su of Richmond, B.C., Ronnald Monaco of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Sam and Dillon Hakes of Coronado, Calif.

12-year-old Kristen Park of Buena Park, Calif., also playing an AJGA event for the first time, has a slim lead after the first round. Park struggled in the early going, playing the first three holes 2-over-par. Despite making a birdie on No. 4, she would again bogey Nos. 5 and 8. Park finished the front nine 3-over-par, but quickly turned things around.

After four consecutive holes of par, Park made a birdie on No. 14 to gain momentum. On the 465-yard, par-5 No. 15, she hit her third shot from 110-yards out to one foot from the hole. She tapped in her birdie putt, and played her remaining holes at par, finishing at 73.

Park admitted she was a little nervous this morning, but it quickly turned to excitement as play began.

“Today felt good,” she said. “But I was definitely nervous.”

With the field right on her heels, she hopes to hold on to her slim lead.

“I just want to play my best tomorrow,” said Park. “Hopefully that will be enough.”

Sitting in a tie for second one stroke back, are Ashley Johnson of Bellflower, Calif., and Nara Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif.

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 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 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 wins. AJGA alumni include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Beth Bauer.

Second-round tee times for the Nike Golf Junior at Marshallia will begin at 7:00 a.m. off the No. 1 tee.

For more information about the Nike Golf Junior at Marshallia, contact tournament headquarters at (805) 606-6262 and ask for the AJGA.