THOMAS HOLDS OFF HOFFMAN ON FINAL HOLE, CAPTURES TITLE BY ONE-STROKE
Mabanta's 75 good enough for one shot victory in Girls Division
LAS VEGAS — On a windy Thursday in the desert, both Boys and Girls Divisions were up for grabs down to the final hole. Ryan Thomas of Almeda, Calif., shot a final-round 71, fending off a charging Kaz Hoffman of Tiburon, Calif., to win his first AJGA event. Melissa Mabanta of Phoenix, shot a 4-over-par 75, and finished off her final two holes even to hold off late rallies from the field.
The Las Vegas Founders Junior Golf Championship, conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, was held at the Angel Park Golf Club's Mountain Course. The tournament featured 62 boys and 20 girls — ages 12-18 — from 15 states and Canada. The event was staged on the par-71, 6,723-yard Mountain Course at Angel Park Golf Club, (Girls Division played at 5,962.)
Thomas began the day with a two-stroke lead over Hoffman, and looked to have left him in the dust early in the round. Thomas shot a 32 on the front nine, capped by a 50-foot birdie putt from the back edge of the 388-yard, par-4 No. 7, to extend his lead to four strokes. Thomas then stumbled, bogeying two of his first three holes on the back-nine, and double bogeying No. 14. Hoffman was then only one shot back heading to the 427-yard, par-4 18th. Both reached the green in two. Thomas then missed his long birdie putt giving Hoffman a chance to force a playoff. Hoffman missed the 20-foot birdie putt giving Thomas the win.
“Kaz played solid and made a lot of pars, and I made some mistakes,” Thomas said. “Kaz just played well, and so it got close.”
The 17-year-old, playing in his first AJGA open event, breathed a sigh of relief when he knew he had won.
“It feels great, words don't express it,” Thomas said, “I didn't know what to expect coming into my first real AJGA event, but I knew if I played solid I had a chance to win.”
Finishing behind Thomas's 67-67-71 — 205, was Hoffman at 68-68-71 — 206. In third was Erik Coover from Scottsdale, Ariz., at 207, followed by Eddie Olson of Aptos, Calif., and Joel Dahmen of Clarkston, Wash., at 210, tying for fifth.
With the top five players in the Girls Division separated by only three strokes heading into the final-round, there was no shortage of suspense. After the final group of girls finished the sixteenth hole, three players were within one shot of the lead. Mabanta entered the round one-stroke ahead, but watched her lead diminish early on. After falling to 2-over-par on the round after the eighth hole, Mabanta birdied nine and got rolling. Despite regaining her confidence after the ninth, the 16-year-old knew it remained close.
“My turning point was on nine when I made my birdie putt after a good approach,” Mabanta said. At one point I knew we were all even, and I was nervous,”
Mabanta won her first AJGA tournament and has no plans to slow down. Mabanta will travel to Washington next weekend to compete in the Pacific Northwest International Junior presented by Jeff Troesch.
Finishing tied for second and applying pressure down the stretch, were Jenny Shin of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., at 73-78-74 — 225 and Ginny Brown of Austin, Texas, 73-77-75 — 225.
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 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, which enters its third decade of support, 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, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Beth Bauer.
For more information about the Las Vegas Founders Junior Golf Championship, contact AJGA Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.