PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida - Wells Williams of West Point, Mississippi, leads The Junior PLAYERS Championship by one stroke after carding a 4-under-par 68 in round one.
Thanks to a longtime partnership between the PGA TOUR and the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), 78 of the world's top-ranked male junior golfers, invited through the Rolex AJGA Rankings, compete each year at TPC Sawgrass in a 54-hole, stroke-play event mirroring THE PLAYERS Championship setup, hole locations, and three-hole aggregate playoff format.
The 15th annual Junior PLAYERS Championship showcases the best of the next generation of future college and professional stars. To date, 40 past players have graduated to play in the PGA TOUR's PLAYERS Championship. Justin Thomas became the first Junior PLAYERS Championship alumni to win the professional event earlier this year. He competed as a junior in 2008 and 2009.
Representatives from seven foreign countries and 19 U.S. states (12 from Florida) highlight this year's field. Four of the top-10 boys in the Rolex AJGA Rankings are in attendance, including Nicholas Dunlap of Huntsville, Alabama, who won the Polo Golf Junior Classic at Liberty National and U.S. Junior Amateur Championship over the summer. The Alabama commit is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Williams, in the field at TPC Sawgrass for the third and final time as a junior, got off to a hot start with birdies on the first three holes. He gave a stroke back on the par-4 No. 5, but he bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 No. 9 to make the turn at 3-under-par 33.
You can't play too conservative, but you've got to have a good strategy. So when I started off with three birdies, that kind of put me a little bit ahead of where I thought I'd be. So once I got to four tee box I just kind of played my game plan like I was starting on hole one.
The Vanderbilt commit took that momentum into the back nine, where he added birdies on Nos. 11 and 16 to get to 5-under on the day. Despite his great play down the stretch, Williams faced one final test in the iconic 18th hole. Like many before him, Williams pulled his drive into the water. Williams kept his composure however, and managed to finish out the hole with a bogey, locking in the first round lead at 4-under-par 68.
Williams is a two-time AJGA champion and No. 55 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. He finished T13 at last year's Junior PLAYERS Championship.
Dunlap, Benjamin James of Milford, Connecticut, and Eric Lee of Fullerton, California, are T2 at 3-under-par 69. James and Lee each had five birdies on the day, while Dunlap had four.
Though he's been a steady player throughout his junior golf career, Dunlap became a household name in 2021. Of the eight national junior golf events he's competed in, Dunlap has finished outside the top 5 just once. In addition to the victories mentioned above, he won the Dustin Johnson World Junior and finished T2 at the Boys Junior PGA Championship and Wyndham Invitational presented by Truist.
James is having quite the year himself, with wins at the Scott Robertson Memorial, Team TaylorMade Invitational, and the Northern Junior Championship. The Virginia commit is No. 6 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Lee is No. 9 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and committed to University of California, Berkeley. He has five top 10 finishes in eight national junior golf appearances this year.
Alex Papayoanou of The Woodlands, Texas, Bryan Lee of Fairfax, Virginia, and Jase Summy of Keller, Texas, are T5 at 2-under-par 70.
Second round tee times will run from 8:10-10:10 a.m. off Nos. 1 and 10 at TPC Sawgrass - THE PLAYERS Stadium Course on Saturday, September 4.