MARTINEZ, WHITSETT WIN INAUGURAL NIKE GOLF JUNIOR CLASSIC HOSTED BY ZONA NORTE
Martinez wins AJGA's first event in her home country
MONTERREY, Mexico — Paloma Martinez of Moclova, Mexico, and Cory Whitsett of Houston held onto their second-round leads Sunday to win the Nike Golf Junior Classic hosted by Zona Norte at Valle Alto, A.C. Club de Golf.
The Nike Golf Junior Classic hosted by Zona Norte was a 54-hole tournament, consisting of 83 players, ages 12-15. It was the first-ever American Junior Golf Association tournament conducted in Mexico. The field brought together 59 boys and 24 girls from Mexico, the United States and Canada.
Martinez, 14, shot rounds of 77-74-78—229 to finish one shot ahead of Diana Rabago of Tampico, Mexico, and Karisa Akin of Elizabethtown, Ky.
“I feel very excited, very happy because of all the practice,” Martinez said.
Coming to No. 18 with a two-stroke lead, Martinez was in jeopardy after hitting her drive into the trees. She found the greenside bunker on her next shot and pitched onto the green. Meanwhile Rabago and Akin were safely on the green in two. However, after each of them missed their birdie putts, Martinez two-putted to secure the victory.
Martinez had never heard of the AJGA until tournament chairman Polo Lopez invited her to play in this event. Lopez has served as president of Zona Norte, founded the Mexican Junior Golf Association and is “revolutionizing junior golf in Mexico,” said Beth Reuter, tournament director of the Nike Golf Junior Classic hosted by Zona Norte. “He is dedicated to helping Mexican juniors find college golf scholarships.”
Martinez said she now plans to play in more AJGA tournaments, something that will become much easier after her victory.
Akin and Rabago tied for second at 14-over-par 230, while Kristina Nhim of Buena Park, Calif., finished fourth at 234. Pamela Burneski of Surrey, British Columbia, placed fifth at 235.
In the Boys Division, the 14-year-old Whitsett began the day with an eight-shot lead and never looked back, shooting a 3-under-par 69 to win by 13 strokes at 9-under-par 207 (71-67-69). Even with the large lead, Whitsett admitted to having a case of the nerves.
“You get pretty nervous,” he said. “You don't want to bomb a lead. I was pretty nervous before today's round.”
Nerves aside, Whitsett started the day off right, making birdie at hole Nos. 3, 4 and 5, before playing the rest of the round at even par. That helped Whitsett earn his first AJGA victory after finishing runner-up twice at previous Nike Golf Junior Series events.
“The best part of winning this tournament is it's the AJGA,” Whitsett said. “It's the biggest tournament I've ever won. It's just a good feeling. All my practice has paid off.”
Runner-up honors went to Cameron Peck of Olympia, Wash., who played three rounds at 4-over-par 220. Tied for third were Santiago Gavino of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and Shane Lebow of Santa Barbara, Calif., at 221. Tied for fifth were Brendan Doyle of Beverly Hills, Calif., and Jordan Frye of Colleyville, Texas, at 224.
The Nike Golf Junior All-Star Series is a collection of 10 events specifically designed for boys and girls ages 12 - 15 years old. The competition provides an opportunity for younger members to develop their skills and earn entry into open tournaments. The series concludes with an invitation-only Nike Golf Junior Championship, Sept.1 - 3, 2006 in Aurora, Ore.
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 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, Jim Furyk, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Grace Park and Cristie Kerr.
For more information on the Nike Golf Junior Classic hosted by Zona Norte, please contact AJGA National Headquarters at 877-373-2542.