Brian Harman of Savannah, Ga., and Paula Creamer of Pleasanton, Calif., were named the 2003 Polo Golf Junior Players of the Year, the American Junior Golf Association announced Wednesday. The two will be honored Nov. 25, 2003, at the Polo Golf Junior All-America Awards Banquet held at Walt Disney World Resort’s Yacht Club in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The banquet – dubbed “The Greatest Night in Junior Golf” – recognizes golf’s next generation: the Polo Golf Boys and Girls Junior All-America teams and the hp Scholastic Junior All-America team.
Harman and Creamer now add their name to an already impressive list of past Polo Golf Junior Players of the Year that includes PGA and LPGA Tour stars such as: Billy Andrade (1981), Brian Watts (1984), Bob May (1985), Phil Mickelson (1986-’88), David Duval (1989), Tiger Woods (1991-’92), Jenny Lidback (1981), Michelle McGann (1987), Brandie Burton (1988), Emilee Klein (1991), Grace Park (1994,’96), Cristie Kerr (1995), Beth Bauer (1997-’98) and Candie Kung (1999). This marks the 26th year of AJGA All-America teams and the sixth year of sponsorship of the All-America teams by Polo Golf, a division of Polo Ralph Lauren.
Harman’s ascent to the top of the junior golfing world has been one steady progression. Although he didn’t claim his first national victory until this season, he was by no means a newcomer to the top of national junior golf scoreboards.
In 2001, his first full year on the national scene, he placed in the top 10 in all three of the AJGA events in which he played. In 2002, he finished in the top five in three of four AJGA starts and made a run to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. These accomplishments were enough to secure him a spot on the second-team Polo Golf Junior All-America team. It was the 2003 season, however, that separated Harman from his peers.
He began the year with top finishes at the Junior Heritage Classic (T7) and the AJGA TaylorMade-adidas Golf Junior at Cheatau Elan (T4). In May, he claimed his first national title when he took home top honors at an AJGA Major event – the Thunderbird International Junior held at Grayhawk Golf Club, home to fellow lefty and PGA TOUR player Phil Mickelson. He continued his success at major events when his rounds of 69-71-67-68 were good enough for him to win the Chrysler AJGA Boys Invitational.
Subtract a few hiccups in the final holes of the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions and an unwavering competitor in Brendon Todd, and Harman could have claimed three majors in three tries. While his 69-71-71-69—280 tournament total landed him in second, two shots back of Todd, he reaffirmed his dominance in 2003 major events.
If there were any lingering questions concerning Harman’s successes, they were all put to rest at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. In the final, he defeated fellow AJGA member Jordan Cox of Redwood City, Calif., 5 and 4, completing one of the most impressive seasons in junior golf’s history.
At season’s end, his average 18-hole score in AJGA stroke play competition totaled 70.4.
“It really is an honor to be named the Polo Golf Boys Junior Player of the Year,” Harman said. “It’s something I’ve put a lot of sweat and hard work into. It takes hard work and dedication day-in and day-out. To me, golf is all about timing. I came along at the right time and played well when I needed to. This award shows me that what I’m doing – all the practice and competing – is paying off.”
Creamer, like Harman, put together a season that will not likely be matched anytime soon. In fact, her junior career – with still one more year left to compete – can easily be compared to some of the game’s all-time greats. She has already inked 16 national titles with 11 of those being in AJGA competition. To help put things in perspective, the latter figure places Creamer behind only Kellee Booth (18), Grace Park (18), Leigh Anne Hardin (18), Beth Bauer (17) and Vicki Goetze (15) for total AJGA wins.
An amazing aspect of Creamer’s results is that each year she has improved. After going winless in 2000, she won four national events in 2001 as a 14-year-old. In 2002, she one-uped herself, winning five times. Then, during 2003, she won her first five events of the season. She went on to win a total of seven tournaments, including two AJGA Majors: the Polo Golf Junior Classic and the Rolex Girls Junior Championship.
Along the way, she found time to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, and received sponsors’ exemptions to two LPGA Tour events: Asahi Ryokuken International Championship at Mount Vintage and Wegmans Rochester LPGA, making the cut in both tournaments.
“This has been my main goal for quite awhile now,” Creamer said. “It’s a great feeling to know people think that I’m a good enough player to deserve this award. I think it’s every junior’s goal to be named the player of the year, so with so many great juniors playing right now, I feel fortunate to be chosen.”
Introduced by the AJGA in 1978, the Polo Golf Junior All-America teams recognize those who have distinguished themselves as the world’s premier junior golfers. The Polo Golf Junior All-Americans are honored for their outstanding play in 72 national events, 51 of which were conducted by the AJGA.