Johnnie Clark of Mesa, Arizona, fired an opening round of 9-under-par 63 to take a three-stroke lead over the Boys Division at the Rolex Tournament of Champions. In the Girls Division, Alice Ziyi Zhao of (China) Irvine, California, and Asterisk Talley of Chowchilla, California, start their week in first after recording a 4-under-par 68.
The 45th edition of the Rolex Tournament of Champions features 84 of the best junior golfers in the world from nine different countries. The tournament combines the 2022 Rolex Junior All-Americans and Rolex Scholastic Honorees with many of this year's AJGA champions to create The Greatest Week in Junior Golf.
Past winners of the Rolex Tournament of Champions include Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Charles Howell, David Gossett, Webb Simpson, Sam Burns, Heather Farr, Kellee Booth, Inbee Park, Morgan Pressel and Alison Lee.
Clark, an Oklahoma State University signee, started his round with three consecutive birdies on No. 1 through No. 3. He finished off his stellar front nine with four more birdies to go 7-under through nine. His back nine included birdies on Nos. 13 and 16. The 2022 PING Heather Farr Classic champion is looking for his first AJGA Invitational title of his career. The 2022 Rolex Junior All-American has two AJGA wins on his resume.
Aaron Pounds of The Woodlands, Texas, falls behind Clark three-strokes in second place. The Texas A&M University signee shot a 6-under-par 66. Pounds had a steady round that consisted of seven birdies with his lone bogey coming on the par 5 No. 15. At No. 19 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, he is looking for his first AJGA victory.
Cayden Pope of Lexington, Kentucky, and Bryan Kim of Brookeville, Maryland, rounds out the top three at 5-under-par 67. Both juniors recorded seven birdies a piece and sit four strokes back ahead of the second round.
Remaining top-10 Boys:
Tied Fifth place at 3-under-par 69
- Gerardo Gomez of (Mexico) Howey in the Hills, Florida
- Nicholas Gross of Downington, Pennsylvania
Seventh place 2-under-par 70
- Jackson Koivun of Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Tied eighth place at 1-under-par 71
- Ethan Fang of Plano, Texas
- Asher Whitaker of Wichita, Kansas
- Grant Gudgel of Stillwater, Oklahoma
- Jeremy Chen of Taipei City, Taiwan
- PJ Maybank of Cheboygan, Michigan
Zhao is competing in her ninth invitational of the year. She has one invitational victory coming at the 2022 KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior All-Star Invitational. Zhao carded a bogey-free round with one birdie on the front nine. She then started her back nine with two birdies in her first three holes and carded her last birdie on the par 3 No. 16.
Talley, starting on hole No. 10, saw herself in the lead throughout the entire round. After a double-bogey to start the event, the 2027 graduate finished her first nine holes with birdies on five of her last seven holes. She kept that momentum going on the back nine with two more birdies on No. 1 and 5. The 2022 Rolex Junior All-American, is searching for her first career invitational win.
Siuue Wu of (Hong Kong) Reunion, Florida, and 2021 Rolex Tournament of Champions champion Meja Ortengren of Stockholm, Sweden, both finish 3-under-par 69 and are T3 after the first round. Wu had a bogey-free round with her three birdies coming on holes 1, 12, and 13. The highlight of Ortengren's day was the eagle she carded on hole No. 2.
Two Irvine, California natives round out the top-5 for the Girls Division. Elise Lee and Leigh Chien are T5 at 2-under-par 70.
Remaining top-10 Girls:
Tied seventh place at 1-under-par 71
- Gianna Clemente of Estero, Florida
- Yana Wilson of Henderson, Nevada
Tied ninth place at even-par 72
- Jaclyn Laha of Pleasanton, California
- Katie Ha of Los Angeles, California
The second-round will be a shotgun with a start time of 12:30pm.
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Rolex, a Swiss watch manufacture headquartered in Geneva, is recognized the world over for its expertise and the quality of its products. It's Oyster Perpetual and Cellini watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. The word “Perpetual” is inscribed on every Rolex Oyster. But more than just a word on a dial, it is a philosophy that embodies the company’s vision and values. Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of the company, instilled a notion of perpetual excellence that would drive the company forward. This led Rolex to pioneer the development of the wristwatch and numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism, invented in 1931. Rolex has registered over 500 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces in-house the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Furthermore, Rolex is actively involved in supporting the arts and culture, sport and exploration, as well as those who are devising solutions to preserve the planet.