The AJGA will announce a tournament award winner each week leading up to the AJGA's Annual Meeting and the announcement of the Digger Smith Award.
The ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2011, and the American Junior Golf Association has recognized the event as the best of the past season by naming it the AJGA Tournament of the Year. Held June 20-23 at Mission Hills Country Club’s Dinah Shore Tournament Course, the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior earned the award that is given annually to the tournament that showcases the AJGA, its members, sponsors and host facility better than any other event on the Association’s schedule.
“What makes this event special are the young men and women who have competed in the championship at Mission Hills Country Club for the last 30 summers. The players and the parents have made and will continue to make this a very special event,” said Co-Tournament Chairmen Michael Bradley and Shelley Cooper. “It means the efforts of many are being recognized for creating wonderful experiences and lifelong memories, not only for the competitors, but also their parents.”
Since 1982, the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior has been held at Mission Hills Country Club, making the 30-year-old tournament the longest-running AJGA event at the same facility. Past champions include professionals Phil Mickelson (1988), Tiger Woods (1991, 1992), Patrick Cantlay (2008), Kellee Booth (1992-1994), and Grace Park (1995, 1996), while many other participants have gone on to succeed at the collegiate level.
Integral to the tournament’s continued success is a strong and committed volunteer base. More than 50 volunteers return each year to ensure the event is perfectly executed, starting on the first tee and continuing through the last putt. Each volunteer brings years of expertise to their job, as spotters ensure smooth starts on the Nos. 1 and 10 tees, rovers stock coolers with snacks and drinks, timing station volunteers administer the AJGA pace of play policy, and Co-Volunteer Chairman Pamela Simms announces players’ names as they approach the 18th green.
“This is extremely meaningful because we have a really good team of volunteers that really care, not only about the AJGA but also about all the teens who are in the tournament every year,” said Simms, who has coordinated volunteers with her husband Orville for more than a decade. “It’s wonderful recognition and it lets all of the volunteers know that it’s definitely a job well done. To win this award with that kind of competition around the country is invaluable.”
In addition to its rich history and dedicated volunteers, the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior annually exceeds expectations in terms of hospitality for players and parents. A tournament dinner follows the first round, and then players participate in the traditional water balloon fight behind the first tee. Following the second round, players are invited to take “the jump” into Poppie’s Pond, much like the champion does at the LPGA Tour’s Kraft Nabisco Championship.
On a larger scale, the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior is the birthplace of some AJGA-wide initiatives, including the recycling program and Cares for the Course initiative. Even after 30 years, the Tournament Committee continues to raise the standard by critically thinking about how to provide the best tournament experience for players and their families.
“The ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior has made the AJGA a better organization because the Tournament Committee continues to look for ways to improve every year,” said AJGA Senior Tournament Director Tommy Tangtiphaiboontana. “I’m proud of what this event has accomplished, and I know that it will continue to raise the bar for many years to come.”