Fleming Island, Fla. – Caroline Hwang of Orlando, and Zikang Zhan of Beijing, China, earned their first AJGA victories at the Billy Horschel Junior Championship presented by Zurich.
The tournament, held at Eagle Harbor Golf Club, is the only Stableford format event on the American Junior Golf Association’s annual schedule. Created in 2017 with the support of Billy and Brittany Horschel, both accomplished AJGA alumni, the modified format rewards risk-taking because birdies are two points while bogeys are punitive (-1). The worst score possible is double bogey (-3).
Hwang ran away from the Girls Division field to earn her first AJGA victory. She earned her most points of the tournament in the first round where she posted 16. Hwang followed the first round with 10 points in the second and five in the final round to finish with 31 total. The high school junior went bogey-free the first two rounds and managed to avoid any bogeys in the final round until the par-4 No. 11. That marked a stretch of 46 holes in the tournament before she made a bogey.
Hwang entered the week No. 133 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings with her previous best 2019 finish being fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Junior honoring Jim Bell.
Melanie Green of Medina, New York, started the day 16 points back of Hwang. Despite the lopsided deficit, Green fought back with a total of seven birdies to finish the day with 13 points and to get to 23 for the tournament. The University of South Florida verbal commit is No. 39 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Casey Weidenfeld of Pembroke Pines, Florida, and Chloe Schiavone of Jacksonville, Florida, finished T3 at 20 points.
Zhan started the day just one-stroke back of Boys Division leaders Jackson Rivera of Rancho Santa Fe, California, and Brendan Valdes of Orlando. Zhan opened the final round with six-consecutive pars before making his first birdie of the day on the par-4 No. 7. He added three more pars at the turn before making his run with three-straight birdies on Nos. 11-13. After making another birdie on the par-5 No. 16 and then par on the par-4 No. 17, Zhan came to No. 18 tied with Valdes at 32 points.
Both Zhan and Valdes reached the par-4 in two, but Zhan’s putt was away. Knowing this could lead to the victory, Zhan poured in the 10-foot putt to put the pressure on Valdes. Despite the pressure, Valdes made his putt to force a playoff at 34 points. The pair then went to the par-4 No. 10, where Zhan secured his first AJGA title with a par.
This was Zhan’s seventh AJGA appearance with his previous best finish being T11 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Junior honoring Jim Bell.
Second-round leader Valdes opened the final round with a bogey, but he later rebounded with three birdies on Nos. 6, 8 and 9 to make the turn at 2-under-par 34 and with a total of five points. He then posted a bogey-free back nine with three birdies, including the one on No. 18 to force the playoff. The Auburn University verbal commit is currently No. 52 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. Valdes is a 2018 Rolex Junior All-American whose best finish to this point in the year was sixth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Junior honoring Jim Bell.
Frankie Harris of Boca Raton, Florida, finished in third with a total of 32 points. The Auburn University verbal commit stormed out of the gate with three birdies in his first four holes. Harris added another three birdies and a bogey the rest of the way to finish just two points outside of the playoff. The 2018 Rolex Junior All-American is No. 67 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Adam Bratton of Newburgh, Indiana, and second-round leader Rivera finished T4 at 29 points.
In addition to crowning champions of the event, the Horschels will dedicate event proceeds to support local charities and help endow an AJGA Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant.
The goal of the AJGA’s ACE Grant program is to give top-flight golf opportunities to young golfers regardless of financial resources. This program helps to fulfill the AJGA’s mission of developing young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf.
About the Horschels
Billy and Brittany have a deep connection to junior golf and the AJGA. In 2004 they met playing in the Ringgold Telephone Company Junior Classic, now known as the Evitt Foundation RTC Junior All-Star. They went on to play in a total of four events together and eventually moved on to play collegiate golf at the University of Florida.
Billy’s AJGA career consisted of two top-10 finishes, with his best finish coming at the PING Junior at Mirasol. During her AJGA career, Brittany had seven top-10 finishes, including her best finish of third at the Fore!Kids Junior at TPC of Louisiana in 2004. On the PGA TOUR, Horschel has 37 top-10 finishes, including five victories. In 2014, he won two events and collected five top-10 finishes which led to him claiming the Fedex Cup. Billy also serves on the Foundation Board of Directors and is one of nearly 40 players who give back to the AJGA.