By Laura Fellwock (@AJGAFellwock), AJGA Communications
A lot can happen in 11 years.
When Andrew Yun and Esther Choe won the inaugural PING Invitational in 2006, the iPhone had not yet hit shelves, people had only been able to watch videos on YouTube for a year and Doritos Locos Tacos wouldn’t dominate Taco Bell sales for another six years. Oh, and no one knew what the words “social media” meant.
At the 2006 event, Yun, from Chandler, Arizona, was in his third year of AJGA play, earning his most impressive victory at the Haas Family Invitational earlier that year. An honorable mention Rolex Junior All-American in 2005, Yun’s two Invitational wins propelled him onto the Rolex Junior All-America First Team in 2006. Although Yun was victorious, the final-round leader is a player most golfers might recognize: a young kid from Murrieta, California, who later committed to Oklahoma State, Rickie Fowler.
Eleven years later, Fowler is now a three-time Ryder Cup player, THE PLAYERS Champion and a proud Oklahoma State cowboy. This week, on the 10th anniversary of the event, two more future Cowboys look to add their name to the brass trophy: Austin Eckroat of Edmond, Oklahoma, and Matthew Wolff of Agoura Hills, California.
Throughout the 11-year history of the event, some things haven't changed. Karsten Creek has hosted the event every year, named in honor of the founder of PING, Karsten Solheim. The PING Invitational also continually sets the stage for the Rolex Junior Players of the Year. From 2006-10, four of the five female Rolex Junior Players of the Year also won The PING Invitational the month before. In 2014, Kaitlyn Papp of Austin, Texas, won the event and currently sits at No. 1 in the Polo Golf Rankings.
The first round of The PING Invitational begins Saturday at 8:30 a.m. off Nos. 1 and 10 at Karsten Creek. Visit the tournament website for more information.