NORTON SURVIVES 110-DEGREE HEAT TO LEAD BOYS DIVISION
Arcala and Fox tied atop Girls Division at Rancho Mirage
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Grant Norton of Rancho Murrieta, Calif., fired a 1-under-par 71 in the stifling heat at the Ashworth Junior at Rancho Mirage to take the Boys Division lead on Saturday. In the Girls Division, Stephanie Arcala of Oceanside, Calif., and Sarah Fox of Santa Barbara, Calif., each shot 1-over-par 73s to tie for first place.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Ashworth Junior at Rancho Mirage is a 36-hole stroke play event being held at The Westin Mission Hills Resort — Gary Player Signature Course. The tournament features 66 boys and 18 girls, ages 12-18, from 12 states, including 65 from California, and Canada.
Playing in 110-degree weather, Norton felt it was important to keep cool and play smart, not making more work for himself than necessary. The 17-year-old had an up-and-down front nine, carding three bogeys and two birdies to finish with a 37, but was able to regain composure as he made the turn.
“I tried to let my regular game play out there,” Norton said. “I felt good, struck the ball well and did not get too tired.”
Norton started off strong on the back, hitting three solid shots and a 15-foot putt for birdie on the par-5 No. 11. He followed with another birdie on the par-3 12th hole and played consistently on the final six holes, carding pars on each to close with a 34. Norton felt the keys to his solid round were his tee shots and ball striking, though he struggled with errant putts.
Chris Jones of Laguna Niguel, Calif., stands alone in second place after carding an even-par 72. Darius Estrada of Henderson, Nev., Stephan Hale of Bakersfield, Calif., Ryan Sheffer of Tucson, Ariz., Benjamin Bauch of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., and Ahron Valverde of Whitter, Calif., each shot 1-over-par 73s to stand tied for third place.
In the Girls Division, Arcala's 73 featured a 36 on the front nine and a 37 on the back side with four total birdies. She got off to a rough start with a bogey on the first hole, but was able to make up for it on the second hole. She hit her approach shot to 10 feet from the flagstick and nailed the putt for birdie, which gave her a boost of confidence for the rest of the round.
“I felt fine out there and things were working well,” Arcala said. “I just made sure I had water and tried not to think about the heat.”
The 16-year-old was particularly pleased with her putting performance and needed only 26 putts throughout her round. Arcala also struck the ball solidly, hitting 10 fairways on the day.
Fox knew the key to staying in contention with the high temperatures was to hit fairways and greens and create birdie opportunities. The strategy worked for the 16-year-old, whose 73 featured a 36 on the front nine and a 37 on the back side with three total birdies.
“I did not really have any problems out there,” Fox said. “I think I played consistently. I think making putts and hitting my driver straight were my strongest points today.”
Fox's solid play was on display on No. 4, where she drained a 45-foot putt for birdie. Fox also played well on the par-3s, carding birdies on two of the four holes.
Kaitlin Drolson of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., carded a 4-over-par 76 for sole possession of third place.
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 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, David Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Beth Bauer.
Final-round tee times will start at 7 a.m. on Sunday off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees. For more information about the Ashworth Junior at Rancho Mirage, contact tournament headquarters at (760) 770-2908.