Introduced by the AJGA in 1978, the Rolex Junior Player of the Year award recognizes one boy and one girl who had the most outstanding year in junior golf events at the national level. Past recipients have gone on to become some of the most esteemed players on the PGA and LPGA Tours, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Charles Howell III, Hunter Mahan, Scott Verplank, Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.
NeSmith, 19, is the second South Carolina native to be named Rolex Junior Player of the Year, one year after Cody Proveaux became the first. He won four of the five individual junior tournaments he played in and spent the final nine weeks of his junior career ranked No. 1 in the Polo Golf Rankings.
His accomplishments during the past season will be heralded Nov. 18 during the Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The awards ceremony, dubbed The Greatest Night in Junior Golf, will also trumpet the achievements of the rest of golfs next generation by means of the Rolex Junior All-America Teams, HP Scholastic Junior All-America Teams and Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award.
As the No. 23 seed after stroke play at the Polo Golf Junior Classic in November 2011, NeSmith defeated Rolex Junior All-Americans in each of his five matches en route to his first Invitational win. A month later, he won the Jones Cup Junior Invitational, and with the victory came an invitation to the 2012 Jones Cup Invitational. In June, he earned a sponsors exemption into the PGA TOURs Wyndham Championship after he was victorious at the FJ Invitational.
A win at the AJGAs flagship event, the Rolex Tournament of Champions, proved to be a landmark achievement in his final AJGA stroke play event. The victory not only propelled him to No. 1 in the Polo Golf Rankings, but he also became the first boy to win the AJGAs two oldest events (Rolex Tournament of Champions and the Polo Golf Junior Classic) in the same season.
He closed his junior career at Wyndham Cup, where he posted a 2-2-0 match play record and helped the East Team retain the Cup for the second straight year. In two appearances, NeSmith compiled a 6-2-0 record at the AJGAs team match play event.
He is currently a freshman at the University of South Carolina and has played in each of the Gamecocks first three tournaments.
Matthew NeSmith 2012 season results
|1st||*Polo Golf Junior Classic||70-76146 (stroke play score); won five matches for title|
|1st||Jones Cup Junior Invitational (2011)||69-69-70208|
|T32||*HP Boys Championship at Carlton Woods||72-79-76227|
|1st||*Rolex Tournament of Champions||68-67-66-70271|
|*Wyndham Cup||2-2-0 record (6-2-0 career)|
|T71||Jones Cup Invitational||85-75-78238|
|5th||Terra Cotta Invitational||71-73-71215|
^ Denotes professional eventJutanugarn repeats as Rolex Junior Player of the Year