Kesterson Outduels Pack, Wins FootJoy Invitational by One
Plano, Texas, native earns exemption into PGA TOUR's Wyndham Championship
GREENSBORO, N.C. — In a constant, back and forth battle where six players shared the lead at one point to earn an exemption into the PGA TOUR's Wyndham Championship, Tanner Kesterson of Plano, Texas, came out on top and won the FootJoy Invitational Friday at 9-under-par 271.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the FootJoy Invitational was a 72-hole stroke play event held at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. The 98-player field featured golfers from 26 states, Chile, Japan and Mexico. The field included 25 players who have signed National Letters of Intent as well as 23 Rolex Junior All-Americans. Home of the PGA TOUR's Wyndham Championship, the par-70 course was played at 7,116 yards. Past champions of the event include Justin Thomas, Brian Harman, Daniel Woltman, Andrew Yun and Peter Uihlein.
Leading after the second round, Kesterson kept the top spot within reach and was tied for second with Anthony Paolucci of Del Mar, Calif. going into the final round.
Kesterson and defending champion Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky., were neck and neck on the par-4 18th, tied at 9-under-par 271.
“Coming up No.18, my main goal was to be relaxed,” Kesterson said. “I had no clue where I was. I knew I had to be within a shot though.”
The gallery of more than 100 spectators roared as Kesterson hit his second shot just above the flagstick, while Thomas' second shot landed just short of the green, leading him to a bogey and an 8-under-par 272 finish.
Paolucci, who tied for second in last year's invitational, showed Kesterson some competition late in the day with a birdie on No. 17 to take the lead by one. However, Paolucci soon lost the lead after he hooked his tee shot into the trees, leading to a double-bogey on No. 18 and a tie for second with Thomas.
Kesterson, currently ranked No. 38 in the Polo Golf Rankings, will play in the Wyndham Championship August 16-22.
“It's an honor to be able to play in that,” Kesterson said. “I'm just going to go in there for the experience and it's going to be great. The goal is to learn how to play the mental part of that and be more relaxed and confident out there.”
Kesterson won his first AJGA event last year at the Stars of Texas Junior presented by Party City.
“My dream a year ago was to win an AJGA (tournament) and I got that,” Kesterson said. “My other dream was to win an Invitational. Finally that happened, so I feel very pumped.”
Jeffrey Kang of Fullerton, Calif., placed fourth at 6-under-par 274 and Shun Yat Hak of Lake Mary, Fla., took fifth at 5-under-par 275. Third-round leader Denny McCarthy of Burtonsville, Md., finished sixth at 4-under-par 276.
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 AJGA provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships, and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 49 states and 30 countries. To ensure scholarship opportunities for all junior golfers who have the skill, the AJGA created the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant program to provide financial assistance to young players in need.
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 AJGA support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Polo Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 400 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.
For more information about the FootJoy Invitational please contact AJGA National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.