McInerney claims first major victory at PING Invitational
Green cards final-round 68 to win second AJGA Invitational
STILLWATER, Okla. — A stretch of four consecutive birdies lifted AJ McInerney of Henderson, Nev., to a final-round 71 and a two-shot victory Monday at The PING Invitational. In the Girls Division, Jaye Marie Green of Boca Raton, Fla., claimed her second AJGA Invitational crown by firing a 4-under-par 68 en route to a 2-under-par total.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, The PING Invitational was a 54-hole stroke play event held at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla. The 72-player field featured players from 21 states, Colombia, France, Thailand, China, South Korea, Sweden, Hong Kong and Mexico. The Boys Division played the par-72 layout at 7,388 yards, while the Girls Division played at 6,291 yards.
Calm wind and soft greens led to the best scoring conditions of the week, and the top four boys and top two girls took advantage by carding rounds under par. Shun Yat Hak of Lake Mary, Fla., scorched the course for 10 birdies and a tournament-record tying 67, but bogeys on both back-nine par 5s prevented him from overtaking McInerney in the end.
McInerney made birdies on Nos. 8-11 to maintain his 36-hole lead, but it was his 50-foot putt on No. 15 that may have saved the tournament. The curling par save preserved his two-shot lead, which ended up being the final margin of victory.
“I've been playing Invitationals for a couple years now and they definitely help you with your nerves, and it feels good to finally close the deal,” said McInerney, who finished with scores of 74-69-71. “The course was playing hard and I know a lot of guys that were at the top tried to make a move today and that made it pretty fun.”
Hak finished second at even-par 216, while Matthew NeSmith of North Augusta, S.C., shot 71 and finished third at 2-over-par. Future Oklahoma State Cowboy Wyndham Clark of Greenwood Village, Colo., carded a final-round 70 and finished fourth at 3-over-par, and Taylor Moore of Edmond, Okla., finished fifth at 5-over-par.
In the Girls Division, Green navigated 54 holes on Karsten Creek's treacherous greens without a three-putt. During the final round, she carded three birdies and zero bogeys on the back nine en route to a 68 and a five-shot victory.
Having won the 2010 Polo Golf Junior Classic, Green said that this victory gives her more confidence because she has now won a major stroke play event.
“It feels a lot different because in match play you're taking it hole by hole, person by person,” Green said. “But here I have to play against everyone and it just feels good because now I know I can win a stroke play event.”
Ariya Jutanugarn of Bangkok, Thailand, soared to her eighth top-two finish of the season (four wins, four second-place finishes) by recording a course-record 66. An opening-round 81 kept her out of the winner's circle this week, but her seven birdies Monday kept the pressure on Green.
“I knew so many people could go low so I never counted anyone out,” Green said. “I knew I should have been close to the lead, and when I heard (Ariya) shot 66 I was like ‘wow,' but you have to expect that from Ariya.”
Shannon Aubert of Reunion, Fla., posted a top-three finish for the second year in a row and finished third at 4-over-par. Ashlan Ramsey of Milledgeville, Ga., finished fourth at 5-over-par, while Kyung Kim of Chandler, Ariz., and Annie Park of Levittown, N.Y., finished tied for fifth at 6-over-par.
For more information on The PING Invitational, please contact Kristi Bradley (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the AJGA Communications Department at (585) 245-2782.
The tournament title partner, PING, designs, manufactures and markets a complete line of golf equipment including metal woods, irons, putters and golf bags. The family-owned company was founded in 1959 by the late Karsten Solheim. Solheim is the only person to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame as a golf club manufacturer. Today, the Phoenix-based company is under the direction of Solheim's youngest son, John A. Solheim. PING game-improvement products can be found in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit www.ping.com.
About the American Junior Golf Association
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 more than 40 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.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 500 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park and Morgan Pressel.