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Château Élan Golf Club
Braselton, Ga. • May 23 - 25

Welch Juices Field, Squeezing Out Five-Shot Lead

BRASELTON, Ga. — In the Boys Division, Grant Cagle of nearby Gainesville, Ga., raced out to the early lead, battling dreary, morning conditions to shoot a blistering 3-under-par 33 on the front nine, propelling him to a first-round 2-under-par 69 for a one-shot cushion at the Preseason Junior at Chateau Elan. Jessica Welch shot an even-par 71 to take the first-round lead in the Girls Division and will be teeing off with a 5-shot lead when final-round play begins Monday.

The Preseason Junior at Chateau Elan is a 36-hole tournament conducted by the American Junior Golf Association at Chateau Elan — Chateau Course in Braselton, Ga. The Preseason Junior at Chateau Elan is one of eight events being held as part of the Golf Academy of America Preseason Junior Series Event, which is designed for first-time AJGA members and members that haven't been accepted into any tournament fields within the calendar year. The tournament field consists of 95 boys and girls, ages 12-18, from 14 states. The par-71 Chateau Course is playing to a tune of 6,662 yards for the Boys Division and 5,889 yards for the Girls Division.

In his first AJGA event, it took little time for Cagle to begin his onslaught of the Chateau Course, as he birdied the first hole, along with Nos. 3, 5 and 9, to finish a 3-under-par 33 on the front nine. He followed with a respectable 1-over-par 36 on the back side, taking the first-round lead in the process.

“I felt pretty good about my game today. I started the round out well with a birdie, and that really helped get things going,” Cagle said. “I need to putt better tomorrow. A couple times I three or four-putted, but if I play this well again tomorrow, I would be pretty happy with my game.”

Austin Vick of Evans, Ga., is just one shot back of Cagle in second at 1-under-par 70, following a mistake-free 1-under-par 34 on the back nine. Also on the leader's heels are David Novinger of Knoxville, Tenn., and Jordan Weede of Greenville, S.C., at even-par 71. Tyler Shellnut of Franklin, Tenn., Michael Garretson of Acworth, Ga., Nick Willenborg of Knoxville, Tenn., Henry Mabbett of Griffin, Ga., Tyler Duke of Augusta, Ga., and Noori Hyun of Centreville, Va., follow in a tie for fifth at 1-over-par 72.

Welch, a class of 2011 member from Lavonia, Ga., playing in her first AJGA event, started off hot and ended the round scorching, opening with a first-hole birdie and finishing with birdies on two of the final four holes — Nos. 15 and 17. No. 17 was especially important for Welch, whose second shot landed just off the green, but she chipped in for an unexpected birdie, giving her a 2-under-par 33 on the back and sole possession of the lead.

“It was fun. I managed to stick a few irons pretty close,” Welch said. “I'm going to try to get a good night's sleep, not think too hard, and play my game tomorrow.”

And if Welch plays like she did Sunday, she said that should be enough to earn the title on Monday.

However, her fellow competitors won't be conceding victory to her just yet as Emily Wright of Mason, Ohio, Dayana Marquez of Atlanta, Ga., and Katie Rose Higgins of Charleston, S.C., lie five shots back of Welch in a tie for second. Anne Marie Covar of Edgefield, S.C., lags just one shot back of the second-place trio in fifth at 6-over-par 77.

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 an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of more than 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and more than 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 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. More than 200 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 350 wins. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Cristie Kerr, Pat Hurst, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel and Julieta Granada.

Golf Academy of America, with campuses located in San Diego, Phoenix, Orlando and Myrtle Beach, is the oldest and largest two-year golf career college in the world. GAA's 16-month program balances classroom studies, practical experience and comprehensive understanding of the business of golf. For more information, call 800-342-7342 or visit http://www.golfacademy.edu.

The final round will be an 8:00 a.m. shotgun start Monday at Chateau Elan. For more information about the Preseason Junior at Chateau Elan, please contact Tournament Headquarters at (770) 876-1184.