AKESSON WINS FIRST AJGA INVITATIONAL TITLE AT POLO GOLF JUNIOR CLASSIC
Rolex Junior Player of the Year Hurst captures third straight AJGA Invitational in final junior event
REUNION, Fla. — Bjorn Akesson of Malmo , Sweden , won his first American Junior Golf Association title with a 3-and-2 victory over Sean Dale of Jacksonville , Fla. , in the Boys Division match play finals at the Polo Golf Junior Classic. In the Girls Division, No. 1 seed Vicky Hurst of Melbourne , Fla. , won her third consecutive AJGA Invitational title of 2007 with a 3-and-2 victory over Kimberly Kim of Pahoa , Hawaii .
The Polo Golf Junior Classic, which has been conducted annually since 1978, marked the first tournament of the AJGA’s 2008 season. The 160-player invitation-only field was 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).
Akesson woke Friday morning with a slight cold and fever, but was determined not to let that affect his game. Nerves were also not a problem for the Swede – Akesson’s game plan for his final match was to have fun and be aggressive.
“I just let him play his game, and concentrated on my own game,” Akesson said. “I went for the flags and tried to make birdies. That is the only way you will advance in match play.”
Akesson started the match strong, with a birdie on the first hole to go 1-up. But he and Dale went back-and-forth over the next 12 holes. Dale never held the lead, but Akesson was never more than 1-up on his opponent. Despite the pinpoint accuracy in his approach shots, Akesson was frustrated that he could not get putts to fall consistently.
On No. 15, Akesson hit a solid iron shot and drained a four-foot putt that put him 2-up. The birdie gave him confidence, and Akesson carded another birdie on the following hole for the 3-and-2 victory.
“It feels great,” Akesson said. “I am really proud I was able to keep my focus all week long. It is such a long event and I just stayed calm, and I think that made the difference.”
The Polo Golf Junior Classic marks the last junior event for Akesson, who turns 19 years old in January and will play college golf at Arizona State University in the fall of 2008. Akesson is now the second Swede to capture the Polo Golf Junior Classic title, as fellow countryman Niklas Lemke took the honors in 2002.
The Girls Division pitted the top two players in the Polo Golf Rankings. However, before Hurst could advance to the finals, she had to complete her semifinal match with Stephanie Kono of Honolulu , which was postponed Thursday evening due to darkness. The two players began their 23rd hole Friday morning, and traded pars until Hurst won the 28th hole of the match. It is believed to be the longest match in AJGA history.
“I didn’t want to have to wake up early and lose the match on the first hole,” Hurst said. “It was a great match – Stephanie and I were talking and laughing and just happy to be there.”
Hurst, the 2007 Rolex Junior Player of the Year and No.1-ranked player, said she benefited from the morning finish, as she was able to warm up and get used to the golf course before the final match. She went 1-up on the first hole with a birdie, and never looked back. By No. 10, Hurst was 3-up on Kim, who is ranked No. 2 in the Polo Golf Rankings, and she did not relinquish that lead for the rest of the match. Hurst attributed her victory to solid putting all week long.
The victory completes a dominant year for Hurst, who also captured the McDonald’s Betsy Rawls Girls Championship and The PING Invitational. She becomes the first girl to win three majors in a row since Morgan Pressel won four straight in 2004-05. It also marks her final tournament as a junior.
“It’s been a great year for me,” Hurst said. “I’m really proud of myself and what I’ve done.”
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.