MORRIS OUTLASTS PARK IN SUDDEN-DEATH PLAYOFF CAPTURING GIRLS DIVISION CROWN
Rhone cruises to an 8-stroke victory in the Nike Golf Junior at Marshallia
LOMPOC, Calif. — Rachel Morris of Carlsbad, Calif., shot a 2-under-par 70 in the final round of the Nike Golf Junior at Marshallia, forcing a playoff with 36-hole leader, Kristen Park of Buena Park, Calif. On the first playoff hole, Morris made par to win her first AJGA event with a 79-75-70 — 224. In the Boys Division, the victory was never in doubt for Dustin Rhone of Culver City, Calif., as he shot even-par on the final round to seal the win, at 68-67-72 — 207.
The Nike Golf Junior at Marshallia, conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, featured 80 boys and 15 girls — ages 12-15 — from nine states and three foreign countries. The event was staged on the 6,561-yard, par-72 Marshallia Ranch Golf Course (Girls Division played at 5,518).
Entering the day 11-strokes back, Morris began steady and watched the gap between her and Park diminish. After playing the front nine 1-under, she found herself just 4-strokes back of the lead. She made birdie on No. 10, and shot par on the next four holes, giving her a 1-shot lead.
Park wasn't through yet, as she sank a long birdie-putt on the 379-yard, par-4 No. 16. Morris would bogey the hole, giving the 1-stroke lead back to Park. Both players made par on No. 17, and then reached the green of No. 18 in 3-strokes. After watching Park miss her birdie opportunity to clinch the win, Morris sank her birdie-putt forcing the playoff.
“I knew the putt was straight and I was confident,” Morris said. “I was shaking, but I was confident.”
The 245-yard, par-4 No. 10 played host to the sudden-death playoff. Both players found the fairway off the tee. Morris then landed in the bunker in front of the green on her approach, while Park left herself with a 30-foot birdie-putt after her second shot. Morris got up-and-down from the sand, while Park went on to three-putt, sealing the win for Morris.
Morris is no stranger to the Nike Golf Junior All-Star Series. She has finished second, third, and fourth this year in Nike Golf Junior events. She was happy to finally break through and win Thursday.
“I am really excited right now,” the 13-year-old said. “I feel like I came so close before, it's finally nice to get the win.”
Finishing third in the Girls Division was Ariana Patterson of Carmel, Calif., with a tournament total of 228.
In the Boys Division Rhone entered the day with a 4-stroke lead, and never allowed the field to get any closer. He made only one bogey and one birdie on the front nine, making the turn at even-par. The back nine proved to be much more eventful as the 15-year-old struggled for consistency. Rhone kept the field at a safe distance, as he birdied three times on the final stretch.
Rhone won Thursday for the second time in an AJGA event. In 2004, he won the Ashworth Junior at Diablo Grande and finished third there last week at the PING Junior at Diablo Grande.
“I feel back on track,” Rhone said. “My confidence level is so high right now. I just want to keep it this high for as long as I can.”
Runner-up in the Boys Division, with a tournament total of 215, was Jake Bieber of Alamo, Calif. Finishing at 217, in a tie for third, were Evan Emerick of Oceanside, Calif., and Andrew Perez of Oxnard, Calif. Ronnald Monaco of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Cory Whitsett of Houston, finished in a tie for fifth, with a total of 220.
Both Rhone and Morris look forward to competing in the Nike Golf Junior Championship in Aurora, Ore., in September. The win in Marshallia finalizes their spots in that field.
When asked about the culminating event of the Nike Junior All-Star Series, Rhone said, “If I continue to practice and work hard, I think I can win it.”
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 Nike Golf Junior at Marshallia, contact AJGA National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.