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Top talent tees off Tuesday in Pinehurst

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By Nathaniel Easton, AJGA Communications

The 24th annual Rolex Girls Junior Championship hosted by The Country Club of North Carolina takes place June 8 – 12. This event is one of the top AJGA girls-only Invitationals. Girls from 17 states and five countries make up the 72-player field. Last year’s champion Elizabeth Wang is back to defend her title and joined by six other top-10 finishers from the 2014 event. In total, the field contains 49 AJGA champions and 22 current Rolex Junior All-Americans.

This week’s tournament marks the fifth Rolex Girls Junior Championship for Sierra Brooks of Sorrento, Florida. The six-time AJGA champion reflected on competing in the championship since 2011.

“It has definitely been a great five years,” Brooks said. “This is one of my favorite tournaments to come to every single year. Each course has been amazing, and it has always been a great experience because we get to play against the top junior players in the world. It’s just a great overall experience.”  

Brooks has had a fantastic amateur career, checking in at No. 4 in the latest Polo Golf Rankings. She won the Polo Golf Junior Classic in November and has also won three additional tournaments, including two amateur events since her Polo Golf Junior Classic. Adding a Rolex Girls Junior Championship to her resume is definitely something she has been thinking about.

“I’ve been doing this for so long. To be able to win and have my name up there with some of the greatest players of all time would mean so much,” Brooks said.

One of the girls playing this week has already notched a professional victory this year. Hannah O’Sullivan of Chandler, Arizona, began 2015 with an impressive win on the Symetra Tour at the Gateway Classic at Longbow Golf Club with a record setting 15-under-par 201. She followed that up by running away with the Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic hosted by Longbow Golf Club a few months later.

“I just kept doing what I was doing,” O’Sullivan said. “I knew I had it in me, but this year I was finally able to close out some victories.”  

At No. 12 in the Polo Golf Rankings, O’Sullivan is one of four players at the Rolex Girls Junior Championship who has qualified for the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open. This will be O’Sullivan’s second time competing at the U.S. Women’s Open. Competing at golf’s highest level does not diminish the excitement O’Sullivan feels entering the Rolex Girls Junior Championship.

“I love the AJGA because it is the best competition with juniors from all around the world,” O’Sullivan said. “They run the best tournaments. It kind of feels like a professional tournament because it is run that well and the competition is that good.”

Mariel Galdiano of Pearl City, Hawaii, will compete in her third U.S. Women’s Open. She has played in more U.S. Women’s Open events than Rolex Girls Junior Championship. This will be Galdiano’s second Rolex Girls Junior Championship. No. 9 in the Polo Golf Rankings, Galdiano cherishes the opportunity to test herself against the best in the world at the U.S. Women’s Open while also playing with her peers.

“Playing with the pros is such a great opportunity,” Galdiano said. “I have played in quite a few AJGA Invitationals so I know it is a really prestigious event. I think playing well and playing my own game will work. I try to have the same mindset where I am relaxed, but still really focused. I know that I have to play my best even though I am playing against my friends.”

Muni He of Rancho Santa Fe, California, and Nikolette Schroeder of Avon Lake, Ohio, earned entry to their first U.S. Women’s Open in 2015.

Haley Moore of Escondido, California, took advantage of an opportunity to play at an LPGA event by making the cut at the ANA Inspiration in April. Forty-eight girls in the field have already given a written or verbal commitment to play Division I golf, another testament to the strength of the field.

The talented field at the Rolex Girls Junior Championship tees off for the first round at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, June 9, at The Country Club of North Carolina’s Dogwood Course.