MISSION HILLS DESERT JUNIOR
Mission Hills Country Club - Palmer Course
Rancho Mirage, Calif. • June 26 - 29
DEFENDING CHAMP KIM TIED FOR FIRST-ROUND LEAD WITH KANG
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Sihwan Kim of Buena Park, Calif., and Jeffrey Kang of Los Angeles fired 4-under-par 68s to tie for the Boys Division lead after the first round of the Mission Hills Desert Junior Tuesday. Mindy Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif., sits atop the Girls Division leaderboard after posting a 1-under-par 71 in the first round.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Mission Hills Desert Junior is being played on Mission Hills Country Club's par-72 Dinah Shore Tournament Course. The 54-hole event features 62 boys and 21 girls, ages 12-18, from six states, including 74 players from California.
The longest consecutive running AJGA event at the same venue, the Mission Hills Desert Junior boasts past champions such as Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Bob May, Kevin Na, Danielle Ammaccapane, Brandi Burton, Emilee Klein, Kellee Booth and Grace Park. These professionals all played in — and won — the Mission Hills Desert Junior before making household names for themselves at the amateur, collegiate and professional levels.
Sihwan Kim had six birdies in the first round of his title defense. His putter, along with an instinct for the greens, carried him throughout Tuesday's round.
“I was fortunate enough to get some reads [on putts] right,” Kim said. “My putting was on.”
Seventeen-year-old Kim began this week by carding the same score he shot in the first round last year. That 68 led to a second-round 64, an eventual 17-under-par tournament total, and a five-stroke victory.
Kim, however, doesn't want to get ahead of himself.
“I can't get greedy,” Kim said, “but if I win this year, two times in a row would be awesome, an unforgettable moment in my life.”
Kang hit 15 greens en route to shooting his bogey-free 4-under-par 68. This lead is Kang's first, but the 5'7” 15-year-old feels he has an advantage over the field.
“There are a lot of trees with doglegs,” Kang said. “I'm a short hitter who's pretty straight, so I'm in a good position.”
Jed Dirksen of Hampton, Iowa, Evan Derian of Manhattan Beach, Calif., John Yeun of Brea, Calif., Tom Lo of Los Angeles, and Austin Graham of San Clemente, Calif., all shot 2-under-par 70s and sit behind Kim and Kang in a tie for third place.
After a roller-coaster front nine that included three bogeys and two birdies, Mindy Kim caught fire on the back nine, carding three birdies and only one bogey to end her day with a 1-under-par 71 and the outright lead.
“I lost concentration on No. 14,” Mindy Kim said, “but then I chipped in for birdie on the next hole and got some of that back.”
Despite her chip-in, Kim emphasized the importance of maintaining her calm.
“I try to play my own game, keep pace, and take it one shot at a time,” she said. “I've never won (an AJGA event), it would be really nice.”
Kristen Park of Buena Park, Calif., who won an AJGA event earlier in June, shot an even-par 72 to finish the first round in second place. Lizette Salas of Azusa, Calif., and Jennifer Johnson of Carlsbad, Calif., are tied for third after posting 74s.
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 counties.
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 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, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr, Candie Kung and Paula Creamer.
The second round of the Mission Hills Desert Junior will begin Wednesday, June 28 with tee times running from 6:30-8:27 a.m. off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees. For more information on the Mission Hills Desert Junior, contact tournament headquarters at (760) 324-9400, or visit the AJGA Web site at ajga.org.