RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Hailey Borja of Lake Forest, California, and Megan Furtney of South Elgin, Illinois, lead after 36 holes on the Pete Dye Challenge Course at the ANA Junior Inspiration at 4-under-par 140. Both girls are playing in the event for the second time and pace the field of 48 top junior golfers in the world by just one stroke.
The event, which will be decided on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club on Sunday, March 31, has high stakes with the final amateur exemption into golf’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, on the line.
In addition to the competition for the major exemption, the tournament honors the history of golf by incorporating LPGA Legends into the field of competition. Juniors learn from and are mentored by the women who created the foundation of women’s golf, including a few who’ve been exactly in their shoes as AJGA players. Final-round pairings will feature two juniors in each group with one of 24 LPGA Legends competing in a fun group Best-Ball competition.
Furtney, a two-time Gateway City Qualifier, birdied eight holes during the first two rounds held back-to-back on the first day of competition and said the turning point was birdieing Nos. 14-16 to get to 4-under-par for the first time in the round. The two-time Rolex Junior All-American has collected three AJGA wins and is currently No. 37 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. Furtney is one of 11 players who qualified for the ANA Junior Inspiration through ANA Priority Mileage Points Standings, based on the Rolex AJGA Rankings in ANA’s top 11 North American Gateway Cities. With support from ANA and the ANA Inspiration, Furtney donated a $5,000 grant to the Illinois Junior Golf Association. In the past two years, ANA has donated $165,000 to 18 state and local golf associations through this program.
“Playing 36 holes I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself, trying to make as many birdies as a I could and limit my mistakes which helped a lot,” said the 18-year-old Duke commit. “That run boosted my confidence a lot and really was able to get me going for the second round. Having the lead is exciting for sure but I’m going to let whatever happens, happen. To play with an LPGA Legend is such a cool opportunity for us. I look forward to learning so much about the game and will really enjoy being a part of this tomorrow. It gives me butterflies and chills to think about having the opportunity to earn a Major exemption. It’s something you dream of doing as a little girl.”
Borja played with consistent rounds of 2-under-par 70 and is coming off a January runner-up finish in Carlsbad at the AJGA Junior at Vista Valley. The Michigan commit opened with three early birdies and birdied two holes on the back nine. Three bogeys left Borja just three strokes off the lead. The Rolex Junior All-American is looking for her first AJGA win but has collected six top-five finishes over her five-year AJGA career.
“Tomorrow all I’m thinking about is having fun,” said Borja, who finished T11 at the 2018 ANA Junior Inspiration. “Like Annika said [last night], enjoy the moment and smell the flowers. I’m excited to be playing with Megan because we have known each other for so long so it will definitely be a fun round.”
One stroke back at 3-under-par 141 are Yuka Saso of Manila, Philippines, Cindy Kou of (China) Windermere, Florida, and Joyce Jin of (China) Encinitas, California. Saso, No. 2 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, finished 10th in the 2017 ANA Junior Inspiration. Kou, an eight-time AJGA champion, has played in all three AJGA-run ANA Junior Inspiration events. Jin, a Rolex Junior All-American, finished tied for eighth at the February Buick Shanshan Feng AJGA Girls Invitational.
Tied for sixth at 2-under-par 142 are four players: 2018 ANA Junior Inspiration champion Rose Zhang of Irvine, California, Bohyun Park of (South Korea) Farmers Branch, Texas, Pauline Roussin Bouchard of Carqueiranne, France, and Zoe Antoinette Campos of Valencia, California. An additional five players sit at even-par or better.
In addition to the final exemption into golf’s first major, the 2019 ANA Junior Inspiration champion will add her name to an impressive list of past champions including an AJGA all-star cast: 2013 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Alison Lee (2012), Angel Yin (2013), Lilia Vu (2014), Haley Moore (2015) 2014 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Andrea Lee (2016), Lucy Li (2017) and Zhang (2018).
Final-round tee times run from 7 a.m. – 11:36 a.m. Scoring is available at ajga.org/scoring.
For more information about the ANA Junior Inspiration, visit www.ANAjuniorinspiration.com.
About the ANA Inspiration
The ANA Inspiration is golf’s first major and one of the LPGA Tour’s most prestigious events. Previously known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the tournament was founded in 1972 by David Foster and Dinah Shore and earned the designation as a major championship in 1983. Contested at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., since its inception, the ANA Inspiration holds the distinction of being the second oldest golf tournament continuously held at the same course. For many, the event is most distinguished by one of golf’s most beloved traditions: the champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond, located adjacent to the 18th green. In 1988, the first champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond was taken by Amy Alcott, and since has become one of the most anticipated and memorable traditions in golf. For more information on the ANA Inspiration, please visit ANAinspiration.com or call 760-834-8872. On social media, visit facebook.com/ANAinspiration, twitter.com/ANAinspiration or instagram.com/ANAinspiration.