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Barbaree continuing AJGA tradition at FedEx St. Jude Classic

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By Chris Richards, AJGA Communications

With the title of Rolex Junior Player of the Year comes prestige and a place in AJGA history. Since 2007, the title has also come with a sponsor's exemption into the FedEx St. Jude Classic, played annually at TPC Southwind.

Philip Barbaree is continuing that tradition this week in Memphis, Tennessee, as the 17-year-old will make his PGA TOUR debut when he tees off Thursday at 2 p.m. CDT. He's the third Rolex Junior Player of the Year to make his TOUR debut at TPC Southwind, as six others had previously competed against the pros.

“I don’t know exactly what to expect,” Barbaree said in an article on the FedEx St. Jude Classic website. “I’m sure I’ll be nervous on the first tee. I’d like to play well, but my priority is to just enjoy the week. Jumping from junior golf to the PGA TOUR, that’s a big step.”

His credentials solidify his spot among the world's best, even if he is the youngest player in the 156-player field. He's the reigning champ of the U.S. Junior Amateur and the Rolex Tournament of Champions, and he is currently No. 69 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

While Barbaree is continuing a tradition, Matthew NeSmith may be starting a new one. He was the 2012 Rolex Junior Player of the Year, and this week he is making his pro debut three years after he made his second PGA TOUR appearance as an amateur in 2013.

“It’s a little bit ironic, but it’s definitely pretty cool to come back here as a professional and play,” NeSmith told StJudeClassic.com. “When I started trying to get an exemption to play my first PGA TOUR event, this just seemed to be a great fit. I just feel blessed to be in a position to be able to try and do this for a living.”

Rolex Junior Players of the Year at the FedEx St. Jude Classic

2015 – Sam Burns (MC, 72-75)

  • FedEx St. Jude Classic was his 2nd TOUR start (MC, 2015 Valero Texas Open)
  • Recently finished his freshman season at LSU

2014 – Scott Scheffler (MC, 71-76)

  • FedEx St. Jude Classic was his 2nd TOUR start (T22, 2014 HP Byron Nelson)
  • Recently finished his sophomore season at Texas and is No. 21 in World Amateur Golf Rankings
  • 2015 Phil Mickelson Freshman of the Year

2013 – Matthew NeSmith (MC, 73-76)

  • FedEx St. Jude Classic was his 2nd TOUR start (MC, 2012 Wyndham Championship)
  • 2-time All-SEC First-Team selection at South Carolina
  • Will make his pro debut this week

2012 – Cody Proveaux (MC, 75-71)

  • FedEx St. Jude Classic was his 1st TOUR start
  • Recently finished his senior season at Clemson

2011 – Anthony Paolucci (MC, 74-75)

  • FedEx St. Jude Classic was his 2nd TOUR start (T29, 2011 Farmers Insurance Open)
  • Currently 6th on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Money List

2010 – Jordan Spieth (MC, 73-69)

  • FedEx St. Jude Classic was his 2nd TOUR start (T16, 2010 HP Byron Nelson)
  • 2015 FedExCup champion and PGA TOUR Player of the Year

2009 – Cameron Peck (MC, 69-73)

  • FedEx St. Jude Classic was his 2nd TOUR start (MC, 2008 Wyndham Championship)
  • Turned pro in 2014, played on the Mackenzie Tour in 2015

2007 – Philip Francis (MC, 78-79)

  • FedEx St. Jude Classic was his 1st TOUR start
  • Played college golf at UCLA and Arizona State before turning pro in 2011