Bryan Kim of Brookeville, Maryland, and Lucy Yuan of (Canada) San Diego, lead the 15th PING Invitational after round one at Karsten Creek.
This year's PING Invitational showcases the best of the next generation of future college and professional stars. Host venue Karsten Creek is home to the Oklahoma State University Men's and Women's Golf teams. The course was ranked No. 24 in Golf Digest's list of "America's 100 Greatest Public Courses" for 2021-22.
The tournament field is loaded with talent. Of the 72 players in the field, there are 56 AJGA champions, including four 2021 Invitational winners. Additionally, there are 33 college commits and 33 Rolex Junior All-Americans. Players hail from 17 states and five international countries.
One of the most challenging courses on the AJGA schedule was no match for Kim in the first round. He kicked off his first PING Invitational appearance with a birdie on the first hole. Kim proceeded to par 12 consecutive holes before adding back-to-back birdies on the par-5 No. 14 and the par-3 No. 15. He remained flawless over the closing holes to post a bogey-free 3-under-par 69, good enough for a one stroke lead after round one.
This is Kim's first year competing on the AJGA circuit, and he's making the most of it. Kim finished second in his first AJGA appearance back in March at the AJGA Carolina Trace Junior, and he followed that up with a T4 finish a month later at the AJGA Junior at 12 Oaks. The 2023 grad won the Maryland State Junior Amateur in June and earned his first AJGA title in just his third start at the K.J. Choi Foundation Junior Championship by SK Telecom in August. Kim made his first AJGA Invitational appearance over Labor Day weekend at The Junior PLAYERS Championship, ultimately finishing T9 at TPC Sawgrass. He's No. 13 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Benjamin James of Milford, Connecticut, sits in second at 2-under-par 70. The Virginia commit played steady throughout the round, carding four birdies to just two bogeys. James is looking to cap off an already incredible season in which he's won the Scott Robertson Memorial, Team TaylorMade Invitational, Northern Junior Championship and Junior PLAYERS Championship. James finished tenth at the 2020 PING Invitational and is No. 2 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Nicholas Prieto of Miami, and Preston Stout of Dallas, are T3 at even-par 72. Prieto had an unbelievable front nine that featured an eagle on the first hole, three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on the par-3 No. 7. After making the turn at 1-under-par 35, he went on to add just one bogey on the back nine for the even-par round. Stout had quite the round himself with four birdies, two bogeys, and a double bogey on the par-4 No. 10.
Prieto is No. 45 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and in search of his first AJGA victory. His best finish this year was T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Junior honoring Jim Bell. Stout is No. 40 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and earned his first AJGA victory back in March at the AJGA Carolina Trace Junior.
Aaron Pounds of The Woodlands, Texas, and Eric Lee of Fullerton, California, are T5 at 1-over-par 73.
Yuan got off to a hot start with two birdies over her first four holes. The 2020 Rolex Junior All-American ultimately gave those strokes back at the turn however, making a double bogey on the par-5 No. 9. Yuan kept her composure though and bounced back with three straight birdies on Nos. 12-14 to ascend the leaderboard. Yuan gave one more stroke back on the par-4 No. 16, but she managed to par the last two holes to get in the clubhouse at 2-under-par 70. She was the only player in the Girls Division to finish under-par.
Yuan is No. 21 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and already owns three AJGA victories in her first three seasons on the circuit. The 2024 grad won the 2019 Golf Performance Center Junior All-Star, the 2020 AJGA Stan Utley and Mid-America Youth Golf Foundation Junior All-Star, and the 2021 Lanto Junior Championship. She's seeking her first Invitational victory.
Jaclyn LaHa of Pleasanton, California, is in second at even-par 72. She carded four birdies and four bogeys. LaHa is a 2020 Rolex Junior All-American and committed to the University of Virginia. She's No. 30 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Lauren Kim of (Canada) Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, Ava Merrill of Johns Creek, Georgia, and Leigh Chien of Irvine, California, are T3 at 1-over-par 73.
Second-round tee times will run from 8:30-10:20 a.m. off Nos. 1 and 10 on Sunday, October 10, at Karsten Creek.
PING, a golf club manufacturer with the goal to help golfers play their best, has been an AJGA supporter since 1990 and began supporting the PING Phoenix Junior in 1991. The PING Invitational, one of the AJGA's top Invitationals held over Columbus Day weekend, began in 2006 at Karsten Creek. The PING Junior Solheim Cup, the all-girls match play biennial event, has received worldwide recognition and many participants are able to say they played for their country as a junior and professional.
An Official Partner since 2002, the golf club manufacturer sponsors PING College Golf Signing Day and became "The Official Bag of the AJGA" in 2009. In 2010, PING debuted golf bags for all AJGA champions. PING also became the AJGA's first Legacy Partner in 2020.
About Karsten Creek Golf Club
Former Oklahoma State University head golf coach and current Athletic Director Mike Holder first envisioned Karsten Creek Golf Club in the 1970's. His goal was to create a sanctuary for college golf. With the help of renowned golf course designer Tom Fazio, that dream took shape over the next two decades.
On May 9th, 1994, Karsten Creek Golf Club officially opened, and was named "Best New Course" in the country by Golf Digest.
The course was named in honor of the late Karsten Solheim, founder of Karsten Manufacturing (PING). Lake Louise, featured on the finishing holes, was named in honor of Karsten's wife.
Karsten Creek Golf Club is home to the Oklahoma State Men's and Women's golf programs.