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ABILENE REPORTER-NEWS / LAWRENCE HALL ABILENE JUNIOR
Abilene Country Club
Abilene, Texas
July 14-17, 2003

GERLICH TAKES HOME TOP HONORS IN RETURN TO ABILENE WITH 10-UNDER-PAR 203
Espinosa outduels Creamer to take Girls Division title

ABILENE, Texas - 17-year-old Jeff Gerlich of Austin, Texas, won the Boys Division of the Abilene Reporter-News / Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior on Thursday at 10-under-par 203. In the Girls Division, Lauren Espinosa of Irving, Texas, won with 9-under-par 204.

Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Abilene Reporter-News / Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior was a three-round event and featured a 120-player field, 99 boys and 21 girls, with 101 of the participants from Texas. Past champions include Scott Verplank, Phil Mickelson, Emilee Klein, Heather Bowie and Kelli Kuehne.

Gerlich won the Boys Division by three strokes after taking second place at Abilene last year. Gerlich shot 7-under-par 64 in the final round and birdied five of his last six holes to seal the victory.

"I got hot with the putter early and late," Gerlich said. "I thought I would have to shoot a 61 or a 62 today, but it was slow out there and scores were higher."

Rounding out the top four in the Boys Division were Jeremy Frye of Palestine, Texas, Michael Douthit of Palestine, Texas, and Kevin Schultz of Richardson, Texas. Frye, Douthit and Schultz each shot 7-under-par 206 to tie for second place.

Frye, 18, felt comfortable coming into the final round and was only two strokes behind the leader.

"I got a little frustrated with the front nine," Frye said. "I missed a lot of putts on the front, but got rolling on the back nine after I started making those putts for birdie."

Douthit, 18, felt confident entering the final round of play and was competing for the lead until he ran into trouble on the back nine.

"I had a solid front nine and a bad back nine," Douthit said. "I hit some loose shots on the back nine and that's what cost me."

Schultz, 16, came out firing after working an eagle and two birdies on Nos. 1, 2 and 3, but an up-and-down final round left him three strokes back of the leader.

Anthony Verna of Orinda, Calif., finished in fifth place at 6-under-par 207.

"I felt real confident at the start," Schultz said. "The 16th is what cost me, I three putted from five feet."

Positive thinking helped the 16-year-old Espinosa win the Girls Division by one stroke over Paula Creamer of Pleasanton, Calif. Espinosa fired a final round 4-under-par 67 to edge out the victory. It was her first AJGA win since November of 2001.

"I always knew I could get a birdie on the next hole," Espinosa said. "It was exciting how it went wire-to-wire, it pumped me up."

Creamer, 16, went for it all in the final round. She took her driver out for the first time of the week on No. 18 and was aggressive on the greens.

"I gave it my all out there, you can't win every tournament," Creamer said. "Lauren deserved to win. When you have five birdies on the back nine, who doesn't?"

Rounding out the top three in the Girls Division was Brittany Tomerlin of San Angelo, Texas, at 7-over-par 220.

For more information on the Abilene Reporter-News / Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior call (770) 868-4211 or visit the Association's Web site at ajga.org.

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