Twelve-year-old junior golfers will be eligible to compete in American Junior Golf Association tournaments in 2004, the AJGA announced Wednesday.
Since 1990, AJGA tournaments have been limited to 13-18-year-olds who have not yet begun college. Under the new age guideline, a player who reaches his or her 12th birthday on or before the final day of a tournament is eligible to apply for that event.
“We have seen players such as Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, Aree and Naree Song, and In-Bee Park who have excelled at a very young age,” said Stephen Hamblin, AJGA Executive Director.
Pressel made headlines when she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open in 2001 as a 12-year-old. Wie became well-known in golf circles as an 11-year-old prodigy.
The Song twins played in their first AJGA tournament – the Rolex Girls Junior Championship – within weeks after turning 13 years old in 1999. Aree won the invitational, while Naree placed fourth. In 2002, Park became the youngest Polo Golf Junior Player of the Year shortly after turning 14.
“This will benefit juniors who have the ability to compete in the AJGA by giving them the opportunity to gain experience at a younger age,” Hamblin said. “Many 12-year-olds will find opportunities in the Nike Golf Junior All-Star Series. That is a great entry point into national junior golf.”
The Nike Golf Junior All-Star Series provides playing opportunities for juniors, ages 12-15. Many of today’s top players, such as 2002 Polo Golf Junior Players of the Year Park and Seung Su Han, got their start in the Series.
Jennie Lee, who recently won the Polo Golf Junior Classic, began her AJGA career in the Nike Golf Junior All-Star Series, as did first-team Polo Golf Junior All-Americans James Lee and Amanda Blumenherst.
This motion was proposed and approved at the AJGA Board Meeting held during the week of the Polo Golf Junior Classic.