BACK SURVIVES TWO-HOLE PLAYOFF TO WIN IN QUAD CITIES
Park takes Girls Division after dramatic finish
Long Grove, Iowa — James Back of La Habra, Calif., survived a two-hole playoff in the final round of the Nike Golf Junior at Quad Cities against Joseph Smith of Champaign, Ill., and John Gregory Joseph of Valdosta, Ga., to capture the Boys Division title. In the Girls Division, In-Ah Park of Las Vegas, Nev., fired an even-par 72 to come from behind and claim victory with a tournament total of 219.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Nike Golf Junior at Quad Cities is a 54-hole stroke play event held at Glynns Creek Golf Course. The tournament featured 65 boys and 17 girls from 20 states, Mexico and Canada. The Nike Golf Junior All-Star series allows players ages 12-15 to develop their skills and earn entry into other AJGA tournaments.
In the final round, Back shot an even-par 72 while Smith fired a 4-under-par 68 and Joseph carded a 3-under-par 69 for tournament totals of 213. Of his playoff strategy, Back said he wanted to keep the ball in play and make par. The three recorded pars on the first hole, where Back chipped within inches of the flag from off the green. On the second hole, Back two-putted for par and the win as Smith and Joseph each made bogey.
Back, 14, started the round with a one-shot lead. During his even-par round, which consisted of a 37 on the front nine and a 35 on the back side, Back said he felt comfortable and confident on the course, particularly on the greens.
“I didn't miss any chances today and my putting was good,” Back said. “I was nervous at first in the playoff, but then I just calmed down and concentrated.”
The win is Back's first AJGA victory. The playoff defeat left Smith and Joseph tied for second place, while Brinson Paolini of Virginia Beach, Va., took fourth with a final round 3-under-par 69 and three-day total of 216. Wilson Bowen of Winnetka, Ill., shot a 1-over-par 73 to finish in fifth place with a tournament total of 217.
Park, 14, headed into the final round one shot behind Whitney Wenglasz of Oldsmar, Fla. She got off to a hot start, making three straight birdies on Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Park and Wenglasz kept it close all round and were tied for the lead teeing off the 17th hole. Park nailed her third shot to within five feet of the flagstick and made birdie, while Wenglasz missed the green and made par. The birdie gave Park a boost of momentum and a one-shot lead heading to the final hole.
“On No. 18 I was just trying to get it close to the hole and two-putt,” Park said. “My putting was working today. I missed some short ones, but my middle and long putts were really good.”
Park's strategy worked as Wenglasz lipped out a short birdie opportunity and Park two-putted for par and the win. It is Park's first AJGA victory, one that keeps her family legacy alive. Her older sister, In-Bee, owns 10 junior titles and is a four-time Rolex All-American.
Wenglasz shot a final round 74 for a tournament total of 220 and sole possession of second place. Rachel Morris of Carlsbad, Calif., placed third with a final round even-par 72 and a three-day total of 224.
In addition to the dramatic finishes, Andrew Colvin of Longwood, Fla., made his third career hole-in-one on the par-3 11th hole with a 6-iron from 152 yards.
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 AJGA, the largest Association of its kind, has a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 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, a supporter of the AJGA since 1983, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004.
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 Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Dottie Pepper, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Beth Bauer.
For more information about the Nike Golf Junior at Quad Cities, call national headquarters at (770)868-4200.