COMEBACK LIFTS AKESSON TO FINALS, SET TO FACE DALE AT POLO GOLF JUNIOR CLASSIC
Kim awaits Girls Division opponent at
Ginn Reunion Resort
REUNION, Fla. — Bjorn Akesson of Malmo , Sweden , became the first international player to reach the finals of the Polo Golf Junior Classic since 2002 when fellow countryman Niklas Lemke took home top honors. Akesson will face off against Sean Dale of Jacksonville , Fla. , during Friday’s match. Third-seeded Kimberly Kim of Pahoa , Hawaii , will enter her first match play final since winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2006. She will have to wait to find out who she will face until Friday morning, as the semifinal match between Vicky Hurst of Melbourne , Fla. , and Stephanie Kono of Honolulu , was called due to darkness after 22 holes.
The Polo Golf Junior Classic, which has been conducted annually since 1978, marks the first tournament of the American Junior Golf Association 's 2008 season. The 160-player invitation-only field is made up of boys and girls ages 12-18 from 29 states and 11 foreign countries. Former champions include Stewart Cink (1989), Trevor Immelman (1995), Tiger Woods (1991), Paula Creamer (2002), Grace Park (1994, 1996) and Morgan Pressel (2004).
During the morning quarterfinal matches, 27th-seeded Akesson was 4-down after 12 holes against David Chung of Fayetteville , N.C. He then won four holes in a row to go all-square with one hole left to play. He birdied his final hole to go 1-up and advance to the semifinals where he took on defending champion Morgan Hoffmann of Saddlebrook , N.J.
After a birdie on No. 10 during the semifinals, Akesson was confident about his chances of making it to the finals. The Arizona State University commitment, who defeated No. 2 in the Polo Golf Rankings Hoffmann 3 & 2, will be in a familiar position come Friday morning.
“The British Boys Championship is one of the biggest tournaments in Europe ,” commented Akesson. “I made the finals there and lost, so tomorrow will be fun to try again.”
Dale’s road to the finals was also full of excitement. During the quarterfinal match, Dale defeated Wesley Graham of Port Orange , Fla. , 3 & 2. The two previously competed against each other during the quarterfinals of the 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur, with a different result.
“Wesley beat me pretty hard at the Junior,” said Dale. “I felt the pressure the whole time today, so it was nice to win in the end.”
During the afternoon semifinals, Dale took on William Kropp of Edmond , Okla. The match continued to go back and forth until Dale took a 1-up lead on the 17th hole and won the match.
In the Girls Division, Kim, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the Polo Golf Rankings, had an early quarterfinal match against Marina Alex of Wayne , N.J. , which she won 2 & 1. In the afternoon, Kim took on 10th-seeded Marika Lendl of Bradenton , Fla. While her past experience at the U.S. Women’s Amateur was a plus, it was not necessarily the key to her victory.
“I was so tired by this afternoon,” said Kim. “Luckily, my putting came together on the last nine holes and I was able pull out the victory.”
Kono defeated Jaclyn Sweeney of Bradenton , Fla. , in her quarterfinals match 4 & 3. Hurst had a longer day after going 20 holes with Stacey Kim of Columbus , Ga. , during her quarterfinals match.
On No. 18, Kono lipped out a 25-foot putt for birdie and the win. Meanwhile, Hurst saved par with a 10-foot putt to force extra holes. After 42 holes of play Thursday, Hurst will come back Friday morning to continue her match against Kono.
The semifinal match between Hurst and Kono will resume tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. The Boys Division final match will begin at 8 a.m. and the girls will follow after the conclusion of semifinals.
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 49 states and more than 25 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 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 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.
Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation is a leader in the design, marketing and distribution of premium lifestyle products in four categories: apparel, home, accessories and fragrances. For more than 40 years, Polo's reputation and distinctive image have been consistently developed across an expanding number of products, brands and international markets. The Company's brand names, which include "Polo by Ralph Lauren ," "Ralph Lauren Purple Label," "Ralph Lauren ," "Black Label," "Blue Label," " Lauren by Ralph Lauren ," "Polo Jeans Co.," "RRL," "RLX," "Rugby," "RL Childrenswear," "Chaps," and "Club Monaco" among others, constitute one of the world's most widely recognized families of consumer brands. For more information, go to http://investor.polo.com.