Peter Uihlein of Bradenton, Fla., and Vicky Hurst of Melbourne, Fla., were named the Rolex Junior Players of the Year by the American Junior Golf Association, the AJGA announced Tuesday.
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, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.
Uihlein’s and Hurst’s accomplishments during the past season will be heralded Nov. 18 during the Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet held at Ginn Reunion Resort. The awards ceremony, dubbed “The Greatest Night in Junior Golf,” will also trumpet the achievements of the rest of golf’s next generation by means of the Rolex Junior All-America Teams, HP Scholastic Junior All-America Teams and Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award.
By earning this honor, Uihlein and Hurst secured a spot on their respective Rolex Junior All-America First Teams. This is Uihlein’s third consecutive year on the first team and his fourth consecutive year as a Rolex Junior All-American. This is Hurst’s second straight year appearing on a Rolex Junior All-America Team, earning first-team honors in both instances.
After garnering Rolex Junior Player of the Year honors in 2005, Uihlein, 18, became the fifth boy in the award’s 30-year history to win more than once. Only Tracy Phillips (1979-80), Mickelson (1986-88), Woods (1991-92) and Brian Harman (2003-04) can boast such an accomplishment. Uihlein is the first boy to ever claim the award in non-consecutive years.
Uihlein, who has verbally committed to Oklahoma State University, hovered at the top of the Polo Golf Rankings the entire season, never falling lower than fourth. He ascended to the No. 1 spot by way of seven top-10 finishes in national events and one AJGA Invitational victory.
He began the season at last year’s Polo Golf Junior Classic – the first official AJGA event of 2007 – as the No. 3-ranked player. That week last November in Sea Island, Ga., he made a run to the semifinals before being defeated by Rickie Fowler, now a standout freshman at Oklahoma State. In December, he posted a second-place showing at the Orange Bowl International Junior by shooting a 65-71-67-71–274 tournament total.
His position at the top of the Polo Golf Rankings came from his continued strong finishes in AJGA Invitationals and the U.S. Junior Amateur. He placed fourth at the Thunderbird International Junior in Scottsdale, Ariz., in May with a 71-70-70–211 tournament total. Then, in June, he won his first-ever AJGA Invitational at the FootJoy Boys Invitational in Greensboro, N.C.
His strong play continued into July when he finished tied for fourth at the Rolex Tournament of Champions at The Ohio State University Golf Club’s Scarlet Course, posting a 71-70-74-73–288 tournament total. By July 24, he would take the No. 1 position in the Polo Golf Rankings, a spot he would not relinquish the rest of the season.
In his next event, the U.S. Junior Amateur, he advanced to the tournament’s quarterfinals before being defeated by eventual runner-up Anthony Paolucci of Dallas. He ended the summer Labor Day Weekend at The Junior PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He held onto his No. 1 ranking after his 72-70–78–220 performance was good enough for a tie for ninth.
In nine national junior events during 2007, Uihlein finished in the top 10 seven times (T-46, PING Junior at The Woodlands; T-37, The PING Invitational). In the 28 rounds of stroke play during these nine events, Uihlein amassed a 72.6 stroke average and shot 72 or less 15 times. This statistic includes a 6-under-par 66 during the second round of the FootJoy Boys Invitational that was held on the 7,280-yard Forest Oaks Country Club, home of the PGA TOUR’s Wyndham Championship.
Uihlein was also named to his third consecutive Canon Cup East Team. He compiled a 3-1-0 record at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., in August, bringing his career Canon Cup record to 8-3-1.
Hurst will add the Rolex Junior Player of the Year award to her impressive list of notable accomplishments in 2007. Along with her outstanding junior golf season that included three victories, three runner-up finishes and berths on the Canon Cup East Team and PING Junior Solheim Cup U.S. Team, Hurst also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Women’s Amateur and nearly made the cut at the LPGA’s Ginn Open.
Hurst’s prowess in girls’ junior golf is evident by her Polo Golf Ranking, which hasn’t wavered much in more than a year. She broke into the top 10 of these rankings in June of 2006 and has held steady in the top five since July of 2006. She ended last year’s season with two AJGA victories and runner-up finishes at the McDonald’s Betsy Rawls Girls Championship and U.S. Girls’ Junior, good enough for a No. 4 Ranking
She carried the No. 4 ranking into the 2007 season and ended the year ranked No. 1 with eight top-10 finishes and three AJGA victories. She posted 33 rounds during stroke play competition with an average of 72.6. Fifteen times she shot 72 or better, including a 6-under-par 66 at The Country Club at Mirasol during the the Birks & Mayors Junior Championship.
She started the 2007 season by finishing tied for seventh in the stroke play portion of the Polo Golf Junior Classic. She left Sea Island, Ga., last November disappointed, however, having been defeated by Marta Silva Zamora of Spain in the first round of match play.
More solid showings followed, helping raise her ranking and expectations. She finished second at the Orange Bowl International Junior and seventh at The Verizon Junior Heritage in February. She then posted a 70-74-70—214 tournament total to finish second at the Thunderbird International Junior. A victory at the Birks & Mayors Junior Championship at Mirasol, where she carded a 66-71-69—206 tournament total, followed in early June. And while she stumbled the next week during the Rolex Girls Junior Championship, finishing tied for 26th at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, Colo., her Polo Golf Ranking still climbed to No. 2 by mid-June.
Early July treated Hurst well, as she secured a tie for second at the Rolex Tournament of Champions with a 73-71-71-74—289 performance, a fourth-place finish at the Westfield PGA Junior Championship, and a victory at the McDonald’s Betsy Rawls Girls Championship. On July 19, Hurst won this, her first, AJGA Invitational title on the strength of a 70-67-69—206 tournament total to run away from the all-girls field by five strokes. The next week she moved into the No. 1 spot for the first time ever, albeit short-lived.
The week of July 23, Hurst made an unlikely early exit from the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, missing the cut by shooting a 74-79—153 at Tacoma Country and Golf Club in Lakewood, Wash. She would eventually drop to No. 3 in the Polo Golf Rankings heading into The PING Invitational, the last AJGA Invitational of the season.
Hurst made the most of her time in Stillwater in early October, however, posting a 4-over-par 73-69-76—218 tournament total to win by five strokes over Kimberly Kim of Pahoa, Hawaii. This victory, her second AJGA Invitational title of the season, was what she needed to propel herself back into the No. 1 position atop the Polo Golf Rankings and secure Rolex Junior Player of the Year Honors.
About the Sponsor
This award would not be possible without the support of Rolex, the AJGA’s Premier Partner and supporter of the Association since 1983.
Along with the sponsorship of the Rolex Junior Players of the Year, Rolex Junior All-America Teams and Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet, the distinguished timepiece maker also continues to support two of the AJGA’s most competitive major championships: the Rolex Tournament of Champions and the Rolex Girls Junior Championship.
Rolex is also the Founding Corporate Partner of the Achieving Competitive Excellence Grant. The ACE Grant is designed to give top-flight junior golfers the ability to play a national junior golf schedule regardless of their financial resources. In 2007, with the help of Rolex and various individual donors, nearly 80 junior golfers were able to compete in events they otherwise could not afford.