Avila Golf & Country Club
Tampa, Florida
July 1-4, 2002

Smith captures first AJGA tournament title

TAMPA, Fla. - Nicholas Smith secured his first American Junior Golf Association title, firing a 4-under-par 68 final round Thursday for a tournament total of 207 at the AJGA Avila Junior Classic. In the Girls Division, Jennifer Pandolfi of Navarre, Fla., notched her second AJGA victory, shooting 71 to finish at 4-under-par 212 for the tournament.

The Avila Junior Classic, held at the par-72 Avila Golf & Country Club, was conducted by the American Junior Golf Association and featured 84 players, including boys and girls representing 20 states, Mexico and Paraguay. Fifty-one players hailed from the state of Florida.

Smith, a native of Ocala, Fla., carded six birdies on the day, including two in a row on Nos. 4 and 5. Although Smith finished the front side 2-under, the turning point in his round came on the 402-yard, par-4 10th when Smith got up-and-down from 40 yards past the hole to save par.

"My goal for the tournament was 70-70-70," the 15-year-old said. "I would have been pleased with 6-under. But then it just progressed as I went along."

Smith proceeded to birdie No. 12 before a rain delay stopped play for more than three hours. After play resumed, Smith tapped in a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 13 to move to 4-under on the round. On No. 17, Smith sunk a 40-foot downhill putt for birdie to secure the victory.

"That putt was unbelievable," said Smith, who only missed three fairways for the round. "In the back of my mind, I knew Will (Dottley) had a chance. But before it was halfway there, I knew the putt was in."

The leader coming into the final round, Will Dottley of Madison, Miss., carded rounds of 67-70-73 for a tournament total of 210 and a second-place finish. Scotty Campbell of Conway, Ark., shot 71-71-72-214, good for third. In fourth place, Tyler Rucarean of Gainsville, Fla., finished at 2-over-par 218. Rounding out the top five was Ryan Hillstrom of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who finished at 220 for the tournament.

In the Girls Division, only two shots separated Pandolfi and runner-up Julieta Granada going into the back nine. Granada hit a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 to pull within one, and on No. 12, Pandolfi missed a putt for par that evened the score. The lead traded hands for the next four holes until Pandolfi made a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to even the score once again.

Both Pandolfi and Granada had one hole remaining after the rain delay, the 338-yard, par-4 18th. While Granada had to get up-and-down for par, Pandolfi had a 35-foot putt for birdie. Pandolfi drained the putt to claim the championship.

"I never make putts like that," said Pandolfi, who fired 74-67-71-212. "At first, I thought, 'Just two-putt this,' because I usually have problems with long putts. But then I got up there, and I thought, 'Let's just make this.' I put a great stroke on it."

Pandolfi cited her putting as the key factor throughout the tournament. The 16-year-old finished with three birdies on the day on Nos. 1, 16 and 18. Pandolfi's birdie on No. 1 was her second on the hole for the tournament.

"I've come so close at tournaments the past few weeks, and I just wanted to win this one so badly," Pandolfi said. "From past experience, I know nothing is a gimmie. I've blown up on the last few holes all year. Today, I just tried to be aggressive."

A native of Bradenton, Fla., Granada captured the runner-up position, recording rounds of 71-72-70 for a tournament total of 213. Eight strokes behind her in third place was Polo Golf Junior All-American Brittany Lincicome of Pinellas, Park, Fla., who carded a 75-73-73 to finish at 221.

For more information on the AJGA Avila Junior Classic and other tournaments conducted by the AJGA, contact AJGA National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.


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