PIERCE AND MABANTA EARN FIRST AJGA VICTORIES
CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - Matthew Pierce
Jr. of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and Melissa Mabanta of
Phoenix, each picked up their first AJGA victories Thursday
at the Nike Golf Junior All-Star Classic at Cimarron.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the 54-hole event was held at the par-71 Cimarron Golf Resort. The field featured 74 players, ages 13-15, from 12 states, including 44 California residents, and Canada.
The Junior All-Star Series was started by the AJGA in 1998 with Ty Tryon winning the inaugural event in Kissimmee, Fla. The series has since grown annually and continues to feature top juniors from around the country, ages 13-15.
Fourteen-year-old Pierce carded five birdies compared to only two bogeys on his way to a 3-under-par 68 in the final round to bring his tournament total to 206 and claim his first AJGA victory.
"I'm really excited to win my first AJGA tournament," Pierce commented. "It really hasn't hit me yet."
Pierce's putting was his key to victory. His most crucial putt of the day came on No. 18 when he drained a four footer downhill to ice the victory.
"I was very nervous coming into Nos. 17 and 18," Pierce said. "I was extremely happy to make that putt."
Daniel Miller of Santa Maria, Calif., Brian Kim of Cerritos, Calif., and Roberto Galletti Jr., of Vallejo, Calif., all carded 4-under-par 67s to tie for the low round of the day. Miller placed second with rounds of 69-71-67, totaling 207. Placing third was first-round leader Kim, whose rounds of 68-73-67, totaled 208 for the tournament. Galletti's round of 67 brought his tournament total to 209, earning fourth place. Raj Nahal of Longwood, Fla., brought his tournament total to 211 with a 1-over-par 72 and claimed fifth.
In the Girls Division, a three-hole sudden-death playoff was needed to determine the champion. Mabanta carded a par on the first playoff hole and followed with birdies on the final two holes of the playoff to claim victory.
"It feels great to get my first win," Mabanta remarked. "It's a dream come true and now I can go to Portland (Nike Golf Junior All-Star Series Championship)."
Mabanta broke from her consistent even par 71s the first two rounds, carding a 76 Thursday, but was still able to capture the win.
Mabanta lead all three rounds of the tournament with rounds of 71-71-76, to total 218.
"I missed some fairways and greens on the front, but I came back on the back side," Mabanta said.
Mabanta's victory improved on her previous best finish, eighth at the 2003 Nike Golf Junior All-Star Classic at Ames.
Lila Barton of Dallas, carded a 3-over-par 74, also totaling 218 to force the three-hole playoff.
"I wasn't putting well today," Barton said. "I thought I played okay, but not great. It was hard because I knew Melissa's score all round but I had to focus on my own game too."
Sara Hurwitch of Potomac Falls, Va., carded the low girls round of the day with a 1-over-par 72, totaling 219 for the tournament.
For more information on the AJGA Nike Golf Junior All-Star Classic or any AJGA event, please contact the association's national headquarters at (770) 868-4200.
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