SMITH OVERCOMES TWO-STROKE DEFICIT TO CAPTURE MINDMATTERS
Thead dominates Girls Division by 10 strokes for first AJGA victory
BLAIRSVILLE, Pa. — Ryan Smith of Ardmore, Okla., fired a 3-under-par 69 and finished 8-under-par to seal his come-from-behind victory at the MindMatters Junior Championship. Sarah Thead of Poway, Calif., captured her first AJGA win after taking an insurmountable lead and finishing at 4-under-par 212 for the tournament.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the MindMatters Junior Championship featured 73 boys and 23 girls, ages 12 — 18, from 21 states and Canada, including 39 of Pennsylvania's own. The Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort & Conference Center — Tom's Run hosted the 54-hole stroke play event for the first time.
After bogeying No. 1 and starting his round two shots behind the leaders, Smith went on to go 2-under-par on the front nine, which included three birdies.
Even though he double-bogeyed No. 10, Smith realized victory was in his sight after he chipped in for eagle on No. 13 and holed out from the bunker for birdie on No. 14.
“I figured if I could make some more pars and birdie No. 18, I had a good chance to win,” 15-year-old Smith said, finishing the tournament at 70-69-69—208. “I knew I could make it happen.”
The Nike Junior All-Star veteran took his first AJGA crown in only his fourth open event. Prior to this week, his best finish in an open event was a tie for 15th at the Memorial Junior Championship presented by Wendy's and Discover.
“It feels amazing to win,” Smith said. “It's been a great week.”
Jonathan Bowers of Upper Arlington, Ohio, finished at 72-66-72—210 to tie for second with Kevin Foley of Somerville, N.J., at 71-70-69—210. John Popeck of Washington, Pa., placed fourth with a tournament total of 70-73-68—211. Chris Rockwell of Owings Mills, Md., Doug Stadler of Wexford, Pa., Conrad Shindler of Coppell, Texas, and Heejoo Son of Torrance, Calif., tied for fifth at 4-under-par 212 to round out the top five in the Boys Division.
In the Girls Division, Thead delivered the only sub-par round of the day to finish with a commanding 10-shot margin of victory. Using only 30 putts, Thead was able to sink five birdie putts and limited her round to only two bogeys.
“Not making as many bogeys made all the difference,” Thead said, who finished the tournament at 73-70-69—212. “Today, I played a lot steadier.”
After finishing in a tie for fourth at last week's Memorial Junior Championship presented by Wendy's and Discover, previously her best finish, Thead stayed consistent all week and continued her two-week hot streak.
“It really hasn't hit me yet,” said Thead. “This was my last chance to go for a win and I'm really glad it came together.”
Henna Cho of Buena Park, Calif., finished in second at 69-80-73—222, while Michele Romano of West Islip of N.Y., shot a tournament total of 77-74-72—223 to take third.
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 largest Association of its kind, the AJGA has a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 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 enters 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 200 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 280 wins. AJGA alumni include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Dottie Pepper, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Beth Bauer.
For more information on the MindMatters Junior Championship, please contact AJGA Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.