Straka Pulls Ahead of the Field with a 6-Under-Par Second Round
Park and Tubert Contend for the Top Spot in the Girls Division of the Rolex Tournament of Champions
JOHNSON, Ark. — Sam Straka of Valdosta, Ga., made the Blessings Golf Club look easy as he tore through his second round with a 6-under-par 66 to give him a five-stroke lead. Emily Tubert of Burbank, Calif., and Kristen Park of Buena Park, Calif., sit tied atop the leaderboard in the Girls Division.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Rolex Tournament of Champions is a 72-hole stroke play event held at Blessings Golf Club. The 132-player field features 72 boys and 60 girls from 28 states, Colombia, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and the Phillipines. The Boys Division is playing the par-72 course at 7,095 yards and the Girls Division is playing at 6,107 yards.
The start of Straka's round gave no inclination that he was going to finish the day with such a strong showing; he was 4-over-par through five holes. Then, Straka turned it on and proved his first-round 69 was no fluke. At one point, Straka had birdied eight of nine holes and then later added an eagle to his scorecard.
“I knew I could shoot another 68 or 69,” Straka said, “but I did not expect to go as low as 66. Birdies just started pouring in from everywhere.”
After two rounds, Drew Czuchry of Auburn, Ga., and Shane Lebow of Santa Barbara, Calif., are tied in second place with tournament totals of 4-under-par 140.
Lebow has put together two consecutive rounds of 2-under-par 70, and he is determined to keep his focus on his own game.
“You have to stay positive on this course,” Lebow said. “It is easy to get down on this course because every shot is trouble. You have to keep your eye on the good, not the bad.”
Rounding out the top five boys at the halfway point of the tournament are Shun Yat Hak of Lake Mary, Fla., with an 2-under-par 142 and Jason Roets of Eikenhof, South Africa, with an even-par 144.
In the Girls Division, Park and Tubert have put a 2-stroke gap on the rest of the field after finishing their first two rounds with totals of 2-over-par 146. Tubert carded four birdies on her way to an even-par 72 finish for the second round while Park finished with her second 1-over-par 73 round of the tournament. Tubert and Park are both looking to make the Rolex Tournament of Champions their second AJGA win this year.
Park has credited much of her success so far in the tournament to her ability to manage the course.
“I'm not trying to focus too much on scores,” said Park. “I just need to always know exactly where I need to hit the ball.”
Tubert managed to get herself out of trouble on a few holes in the second round—most notably when she played the ball out of a hazard and saved bogey. She says that she is also focused on playing smart golf the rest of the way.
“This is the hardest course I have ever played,” Tubert said. “If your mind slips for just a second, you are going to be in trouble. With two more days on this course, anything can happen.”
Sitting two strokes behind the leaders in the Girls Division is Rachel Morris of Carlsbad, Calif. Morris notched four birdies on her way to carding a 2-over-par 74 in the second round, which brings her total for the tournament to 4-over-par 148.
After a rough first round, last year's champion Victoria Tanco of Buenos Aires, Argentina, matched Straka's low round of the tournament with a 6-under-par 66. Her strong second round puts the reigning Rolex Junior Player of the Year back in contention as she now sits in a tie for fourth place. Joining Tanco in the tie for fourth are Gabriella Then of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Sammi Stevens of Hereford, Texas. Tanco, Then and Stevens are at 5-over-par 149.
Rolex Watch USA, which is in its third decade of support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. Along with sponsoring the Rolex Tournament of Champions, Rolex is also the title partner of the Rolex Girls Junior Championship and the proprietors of the Rolex Junior All-America Teams.
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 provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships, and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 49 states and 30 countries. To ensure scholarship opportunities for all junior golfers who have the skill, the AJGA created the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant program to provide financial assistance to young players in need.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Polo Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 400 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.
Third round tee times will run from 7 — 10:40 a.m. off No. 1 tee. For more information about the Rolex Tournament of Champions, please contact Tournament Headquarters at 678-617-9917, or visit the AJGA website at ajga.org.