Rolex Junior Players of the Year, No. 1 Seeds Fall on First Day of Match Play
Rolex Junior Players of the Year Philip Francis and Esther Choe, both of Scottsdale, Ariz., advanced to the quarterfinals of the Polo Golf Junior Classic Wednesday, each defeating their opponents in the first and second rounds of match play at Sea Island Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga. Arnond Vongvanij of Bradenton, Fla., and Megan Grehan of Mamaroneck, N.Y., the No. 1 seeds in the Boys and Girls Divisions after stroke play, were knocked out on day one of match play.
The Polo Golf Junior Classic, which has been conducted annually since 1978, marks the first tournament of the AJGA’s 2007 season. The stroke play portion of the tournament included 162 boys and girls ages 12-18 from 29 states and seven foreign countries. Former champions include Stewart Cink (1989), Trevor Immelman (1995), Tiger Woods (1991), Paula Creamer (2002), Grace Park (1994, 1996) and Morgan Pressel (2004).
In the Boys Division, Francis, who is seeking his sixth victory of the year, started the day off with a solid 4-and-3 victory over No. 26 William Kropp of Edmond, Okla. He found himself paired against the No. 10 seed David Yujin Chung of Fayetteville, N.C., in the second round of match play and anticipated the challenge.
“Going into the match, I knew it would be good because he’s a great match player,” said Francis, who finally sealed the victory in 22 holes. “I played my most solid round other than the 66 (in stroke play).”
Francis was 1-up going into No. 17, where Chung birdied to take the match to all-square. In the playoff, Francis focused on his ball striking.
“I wanted to keep hitting good shots and put pressure on him,” said Francis, who is set to take on No. 2 seed Rickie Fowler of Murrieta, Calif., in the quarterfinals. It will be the battle between the Nos. 1 and 2 boys in the Polo Golf Ranking. “We’re close friends but I will treat it like any other match.”
Like Francis, Fowler’s second-round match also went extra holes. Fowler needed 19 holes to win his second-round match against No. 18 seed Ji Moon of Lake Mary, Fla. Fowler used the first hole of the playoff to regroup.
“I thought, it’s a new life, anything can happen,” said Fowler, who won the match after Moon missed his putt for par. “Tomorrow, I’m just going to focus on my game and not worry about who I’m playing. It’s just like any other tournament.”
Earlier in the day, Fowler defeated No. 31 Sang Yi of Carrollton, Texas, 3 and 1 in the first round.
The following players also advanced to the quarterfinals: No. 5 seed Morgan Hoffmann of Wyckoff, N.J., No. 6 Peter Uihlein of Bradenton, Fla., No. 9 Andrew Yun of Tacoma, Wash., No. 17 Richard Lee of Chandler, Ariz., No. 19 Sam Chien of San Diego, and No. 29 Lion Kim of Lake Mary, Fla.
In the Girls Division, Esther Choe, who survived a sudden-death playoff in stroke play to take the No. 31 seed, found herself in a much better position during match play. She dominated the No. 2 seed Glory Yang of Murrieta, Calif., in the first round on Sea Island Golf Club’s Plantation Course, winning 5 and 4.
“I just missed some putts during stroke play. My putts were much better today,” said Choe, who is looking for her third AJGA invitational victory of the year. “I played good course management and placed the ball where I could make up and down.”
Choe catapulted herself to the quarterfinals by defeating the No. 15 seed Kimberly Kim of Pahoa, Hawaii, in the second round on the Seaside Course. Kim established her match play prowess this summer by winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“I hope to do the same thing tomorrow,” Choe said. “Play smart, putt well and take it shot by shot. I know Kim well and she’s good at match play so it was a challenge but also very fun.”
Using the wind to her advantage, No. 3 seed Stephanie Kono of Honolulu, dominated in the second round of match play, turning back Brianna Do of Lakewood, Calif., 6 and 5.
“I gained confidence after I made a birdie putt on my second hole. I played well Tuesday in the wind and I told myself I can play well again,” said Kono, who beat No. 30 Katie Conway of Wading River, N.Y., in the first round. “I made almost everything I looked at. I kept it in play and on the green most of the time.”
Seeded No. 16 after stroke play, Won Joo Choi of Temecula, Calif., edged the No. 17 seed Jaclyn Sweeney of Bradenton, Fla., 2 and 1 in the first round, and went on to take down the aforementioned No. 1 seed Grehan 5 and 4.
No. 5 Kylie Fuller of Temecula , Calif. , No. 8 Sydney Burlison of Salinas , Calif. , No. 13 Cydney Clanton of Concord , N.C. , No. 26 Marta Silva Zamora of Santiago de Compostela, Spain , and No. 27 Caroline Hedwall of Loddekopinge , Sweden , also advanced to the quarterfinals of match play.
The quarterfinals of match play will take place on Thursday with tee times running from 7:30-8:40 a.m. off the No. 1 tee of the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. The semifinals will directly follow the quarterfinals with tee times running from noon-12:30 p.m.
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, the largest Association of its kind, has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of more than 5,000 junior golfers from 49 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 is in 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, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Cristie Kerr, Pat Hurst, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Morgan Pressel.
Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation is a leader in the design, marketing and distribution of premium lifestyle products in four categories: apparel, home, accessories and fragrances. For more than 39 years, Polo's reputation and distinctive image have been consistently developed across an expanding number of products, brands and international markets. The Company's brand names, which include “Polo by Ralph Lauren,” “Ralph Lauren Purple Label,” “Ralph Lauren,” “Black Label,” “Blue Label,” “Lauren by Ralph Lauren,” “Polo Jeans Co.,” “RRL,” “RLX,” “Rugby,” “RL Childrenswear,” “Chaps,” and “Club Monaco” among others, constitute one of the world's most widely recognized families of consumer brands. For more information, go to http://investor.polo.com.
For more information about the Polo Golf Junior Classic, contact Drea Braxmeier in tournament communications at (610) 417-1107.