The 13th Junior PLAYERS Championship looks to continue the event’s recent history of exciting finishes.
Each of the last three iterations of the tournament have been decided in a playoff. In fact, the past three years have seen the only playoffs in the storied history of the event.
The 2016 Junior PLAYERS Championship came down to a sudden-death playoff after Khavish Varadan of (Malaysia) Wesley Chapel, Fla., and Cole Hammer of Houston, Texas, were tied at 10-under-par 206. Their score set the AJGA record for the lowest 54-hole total at Sawgrass Country Club. Due to renovations of TPC Sawgrass in 2016, the tournament was played on the East and West nine-holes of Sawgrass Country Club’s 27.
After putting one in the water on No. 18, Varadan managed to get up-and-down for par to force a playoff. Varadan and Hammer then went back to No. 18 for sudden-death. This time around, Varadan avoided the water, and again made par to win his first AJGA Invitational.
Varadan will be heading to the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the fall. Hammer is currently a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin and is a 2019 Palmer Cup selection.
The 2017 tournament moved back to TPC Sawgrass, where a three-hole aggregate playoff took place between Shuai Ming (Ben) Wong of (Hong Kong) The Woodlands, Texas, Logan McAllister of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Jake Beber-Frankel of Miami. The trio finished at 4-under-par 212 before heading to Nos. 16-18 for the playoff.
Wong, who wasn’t sure if he would make it to the tournament after Hurricane Harvey shook the Houston area, rallied during his final nine and capped it off with a 15-foot birdie on No. 18 to force a playoff with McAllister and Beber-Frankel. After matching McAllister through Nos. 16 and 17, Wong made a par on No. 18 to earn his first AJGA victory.
Wong has since gone on to Southern Methodist University where he’s entering his sophomore campaign. McAllister is currently at the University of Oklahoma, while Beber-Frankel is competing in the 2019 Junior PLAYERS Championship.
In 2018, the lowest 54-hole total at TPC Sawgrass was set by Travis Vick of Houston, Texas, Akshay Bhatia of Wake Forest, N.C., and Bo Jin of (China) Encinitas, Calif., at 8-under-par 208.
The sudden-death playoff began on No. 18, where Jin chipped in for birdie and Vick buried a 12-footer to move on to No. 16. Jin found trouble off the tee, while Vick found the fairway and eventually two-putted for birdie and the win.
Vick finished the year as a First Team Rolex Junior All-American and will head to the University of Texas at Austin in the fall. Bhatia, who won both the 2018 Polo Golf Junior Classic and the Rolex Tournament of Champions, was named the Rolex Junior Player of the Year in 2018. Jin is seeking redemption at this year’s Junior PLAYERS Championship.