SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD CHIEN TAKES LEAD AT HANMI BANK JUNIOR OPEN
Chung, Ferrero lead Girls Division by four strokes
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Sam Chien of San Diego, Calif., took the first-round lead in the Boys Division at the Hanmi Bank Junior Open by firing a 4-under-par 68 Tuesday. Grace Chung of Fullerton, Calif., and Nicole Ferrero of Lodi, Calif., sit tied atop the Girls Division leaderboard after they both posted 2-under-par 70s.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Hanmi Bank Junior Open is being played on Robinson Ranch Golf Club's par-72 Valley Course. The 54-hole event features 74 boys and 24 girls, ages 12-18, from seven states, including 91 players from California.
Chien was accurate from tee to green en route to his pace-setting 68, which gives him a two-stroke lead heading into the second round. The rising junior struck the ball well, hitting 17 greens in the process, but he emphasized the importance of maintaining focus on the course.
“I was making some putts and putting my drives in the middle,” Chien said. “I just focus on one spot out there.”
Chien said that he says a little prayer before he tees off to calm down. Nonetheless, Chien can't help but become excited when he entertains thoughts of winning the tournament.
“It'd be crazy to win, it'd be pretty cool,” Chien said. “What it would be like to win is always in the back of my head, but I try not to think about it.”
Ronnald Monaco of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Austin Graham of San Clemente, Calif., Jack Paton of Hillsborough, Calif., and Tyler Weworski of Carlsbad, Calif., posted 2-under-par 70s and sit in a four-way tie for second place.
Chung and Ferrero relied on their course management skills to shoot 70 and lead their division by four strokes. Chung, who has had nine top-10s in 10 career AJGA events, said she knew before entering the round how important it was to keep the ball straight.
“It's a very narrow course, luckily, I wasn't in any stuff,” Chung said. “Hopefully, I can keep this pace till the last day.”
Ferrero, who was a 2005 Honorable Mention Rolex Junior All-American, had a positive warm-up session before her round and was able to carry that momentum onto the course.
“On the driving range, I was hitting the ball well, and I just tried keeping the same swing,” Ferrero said.
Seventeen-year-old Ferrero is keeping her game plan simple for the rest of the tournament.
“I try to play my best, I can't do more than that,” she said. “I always want to win.”
Victoria Sungmin Park of Irvine, Calif., is four strokes back in third after shooting a 2-over-par 74.
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 counties.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which is in 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, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr, Candie Kung and Paula Creamer.
The second round of the Hanmi Bank Junior Open will begin Wednesday, July 12 with tee times running from 7-11:48 a.m. off the No. 1 tee. For more information on the Hanmi Bank Junior Open, contact tournament headquarters at (661) 252-8484 ext. 5, or visit the AJGA Web site at ajga.org.