Nov. 6, 2013

Preview: Storied past at Polo Golf Junior Classic

Tournament website

Paula Creamer faced Ashley Knoll in the 2002 finals, while Stewart Cink defeated Justin Leonard in the 1989 semifinals.
Hunter Mahan. Erik Compton. Lexi Thompson. Trevor Immelman. Tiger Woods. Paula Creamer. Morgan Hoffmann. Stewart Cink. Morgan Pressel. Heather Farr.

Where can one find all of these names? Among the prestigious list of Polo Golf Junior Classic champions. Each of these individuals took various paths to engrave their names on the coveted trophy and continued to take unique routes after competing at the junior level.

In the 36th year of the Polo Golf Junior Classic, 156 boys and girls, ages 12-18, will travel to PGA National Resort & Spa in hopes of adding his or her name to the esteemed list. Before this year’s field of AJGA champions, Rolex Junior All-Americans and top national competitors take the stage, look into the history of one of the AJGA’s most storied events.

1989 – Stewart Cink
In the tournament’s 12th year, Stewart Cink of Florence, Ala., arrived at Innisbrook Resort with a runner-up finish at the 1989 Rolex Tournament of Champions under his belt.  After tying for third in the stroke play qualifier, Cink reached the match play competition. He topped players in the first round and quarterfinals, facing Justin Leonard in the semifinals. The duo played to No. 18, where Cink won the match, 1-up. He defeated Trip Kuehne of Dallas, 3 and 2, to collect his first AJGA title.

1991 – Tiger Woods
In his second AJGA season, Tiger Woods of Cypress, Calif., opened the 1991 season with two AJGA victories. In the heat of the summer, Woods became the youngest champion in the USGA’s U.S. Junior Amateur’s 44-year history. He continued to make history, becoming the youngest Rolex Junior Player of the Year at the time. 

The already-successful Woods looked to improve upon his 1990 Polo Golf Junior Classic quarterfinals finish, and reached match play again in 1991 with a T6 finish in stroke play. He defeated Jason Echols, 2 and 1, in the first round and Jason Gore, 1-up, in the quarterfinals before facing Ted Purdy in the semifinals. Woods dominated in his final two matches, defeating Purdy 5 and 3, and finishing off Dru Fenimore, 5 and 4, to put his name on the Polo Golf Junior Classic trophy.

In his junior career, Woods played in 13 and won eight AJGA tournaments from 1991-93, which ties him for second-most AJGA career wins and earned him the title of Rolex Junior Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992. Woods appeared in the Wyndham Cup from 1990-93 as a member of the West Team and posted a record of 11-3-2, the best of any boy in the tournament’s history.

2002 – Paula Creamer
One year prior to Paula Creamer’s Polo Golf Junior Classic title in 2002, the four-time first-team Rolex Junior All-American lost in the first round to Morgan Pressel, 5 and 4. 
Entering match play at the 2002 Polo Golf Junior Classic, Creamer knocked off reigning Rolex Junior Player of the Year Inbee Park in the second round, 2 and 1. In the quarterfinals, she defeated 2001 runner-up Nicole Hage, 4 and 3, and then topped Allison Martin in the semifinals.

Creamer approached the final match against Ashley Knoll having never trailed in four rounds of match play. She closed the match on No. 16 with nine consecutive pars, claiming the Polo Golf Junior Classic victory after defeating four Rolex Junior All-Americans.

The 11-time AJGA champion celebrated one of the most decorated careers in junior golf. She was named the 2003 Rolex Junior Player of the Year, the year of her second AJGA Invitational victory at the Rolex Girls Junior Championship.

Honorable mentions: Heather Farr (1979), Vicki Goetze (1988, 1989), Trevor Immelman (1995), Erik Compton (1997), Hunter Mahan (1998), Casey Wittenberg (2000), Brian Harman (2003), Morgan Pressel (2004), Jamie Lovemark (2005), Morgan Hoffmann (2006), Vicky Hurst (2007), Lexi Thompson (2009).

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