As one of the most iconic Invitationals in AJGA history, the Rolex Girls Junior Championship is familiar with some of the best names in golf. With victorious LPGA Tour and collegiate athletes, this historic 31-year-old event includes champions such as Paula Creamer, Inbee Park, Ariya Jutanugarn, Rachel Heck, and Alexa Pano. Taking a closer look through the years, more recent winners have shared inspiration including a deeper meaning on what this competition meant to them.
Last years tournament (2021) took place at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club as Amanda Sambach of Charlotte, North Carolina, was on fire shooting 3-under-par 285 after 72 holes. Not only did she describe how much fun the atmosphere was, it was also noted as her last stroke play junior tournament before advancing her career to play golf at the University of Virginia. During her first collegiate season, she finished in the top 25 in nine out of 10 events and is ranked second on the team with a 72.70 stroke average. She also made her second appearance at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur as well. Amanda recommends having fun, spending time with friends, and trusting in your game for the best possible outcome.
Tracing back to 2020, Rose Zhang of Irvine, California, won the Rolex Girls Junior Championship at Dalhousie Golf Club. SHe congratulates everyone for making it into the field as she had fun memories with friends from the tournament herself. Tying the low-round record for the tournament, she shot a 64 (-8) to place her perfectly in the lead. Zhang completed the 2020 season winning the U.S. Women's Amateur, Rolex Tournament of Champions, and the PING Invitational - placing her as number one player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and a two-time Rolex Junior Player of the Year. She currently plays at Stanford University, allowing her to win this years individual and team NCAA Championship.
Alexa Pano, the 2019 winner at The Golf Club at Briar's Creek, shared how the Rolex Girls Junior Championship was one of her favorite tournaments after shooing a 14-under-par 274. Pano's success beyond junior golf has led her to the Epson Tour at only 17-years-old, bypassing the college golf experience for the ultimate challenge. Results include having finished second in the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes and Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Staying patient with the long 72-hole tournament and understanding opportunities were some of Pano's best advice.
Looking back, I remembered all of the past champions, and all of the amazing things they had gone onto do with their careers. It was a massive confidence booster for me going forward.
The 2017 champion, Rachel Heck of Memphis, Tennessee, claimed her win shooting 10-under-par 278 at Biltmore Forest Country Club. In addition to advice on having fun regardless of performance, Heck states that her best memories didn't even include winning - but spending time with friends. Alongside former winner Rose Zhang, she competes on the Stanford golf teaming having recorded six individual wins. With an impressive 69.72 scoring average over 25 rounds, this remains the lowest in NCAA women's golf history.
Overall, these past champions have left their junior golf career with professional success and valuable lessons. Follow along as this year's winner to unveal the next golfer to make history.