CHIEN WINS HANMI BANK JUNIOR OPEN IN WIRE-TO-WIRE FASHION
Fourteen-year-old Morris charges from behind to claim Girls Division title
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Sam Chien of San Diego, Calif., shot an even-par 72 Thursday to win the Hanmi Bank Junior Open and cap off a week in which he led all three rounds to shoot a 211 tournament total and win by two strokes. Rachel Morris of Carlsbad, Calif., fired a 2-under-par 70 to make up a two-stroke deficit and take home her first open AJGA tournament title with a 219 tournament total.
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 featured 72 boys and 24 girls, ages 12-18, from four states, with the majority of juniors from California.
Chien began the day with a two-stroke lead, but a few hard-charging competitors behind him forced Chien to remain persistent. Playing in the same group, Nick Delio of Valencia, Calif., shot an even-par 72 and kept Chien on his toes.
“I wasn't hitting the ball well,” Chien said, “but I forgot about the shots before and just tried to make a good swing.”
Last week, Chien finished 4-over-par for a 13th place finish and was feeling good about his game. The sixteen-year-old carried that momentum into this week, and he truly realized how close the win was when he stood on No. 18 tee in the final round.
“Just like everyone else,” Chien said, “I get nervous.”
With a victory notched on his belt, Chien is looking forward to bigger and better things in the future. He anticipates playing in future AJGA majors and wants to compete with junior golf's most elite players.
“I can't wait for the invitationals, but I have to keep practicing and working hard,” he said.
Nick Delio of Valencia, Calif., and Austin Graham of San Clemente, Calif., finished tied for second place with 3-under-par 213 tournament totals. Jason Kang, also of Valencia, Calif., fired a 3-under-par 69 to finish at 214 in fourth, and Alex Kang of Oak Park, Calif., shot a 4-under-par 68 to finish at 215 in fifth.
The Girls Division also had a come-from-behind champion in Morris, who rallied on a difficult golf course to post a 2-under-par 70 and win by four strokes. The 14-year-old played nearly flawless golf with three birdies and only one bogey during her round.
“I just tried to keep doing my routine and not think about what place I was in,” Morris said.
With her mom following her throughout the round, Morris drew some inspiration from the gallery with as little as a glance.
“She's always supporting me, “Morris said, “and that makes me feel good.”
Morris finished second at last week's Dodge/Bob Estes Abilene Junior. After shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the first round, she learned how to play with the lead, and that experience helped her win this week.
“This is a pretty big moment for me right now,” Morris said.
Glory Yang of Murrieta, Calif., finished with a 223 tournament total to finish alone in second place and Victoria Sungmin Park of Irvine, Calif., finished with a 225 tournament total to finish in 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 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.
For more information on the Hanmi Bank Junior Open, contact AJGA National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200, or visit the AJGA Web site at ajga.org.