PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida - Nicholas Gross of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, holds the lead at 4-under-par 68 after the first round of The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by Rolex.
Gross, a verbal commit to the University of Alabama, had four birdies and went bogey free on the front nine. He added another birdie on No. 12 and closed with one on No. 18 to hold a one-shot lead over the field.
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, will compete in a 54-hole, stroke-play event mirroring THE PLAYERS Championship setup and hole locations.
The 17th annual Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by Rolex showcases the best of the next generation of future college and professional stars. To date, 53 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 in 2021. He competed as a junior in 2008 and 2009. Scottie Scheffler was the second Junior PLAYERS competitor to win The PLAYERS in 2023 after competing three years in the event as a junior and being named the AJGA's 2013 Rolex Junior Player of the Year.
Representatives from a record-high 15 foreign countries are competing in one of the AJGA’s annual top fields, featuring seven of the top 10 boys in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Gross, at No. 7 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, is competing in his third Junior PLAYERS, already has one Invitational win to his resume this year. He won the AJGA Simplify Boys Championship at Carlton Woods in February and was a semifinalist at the Polo Golf Junior Classic.
I played really solid and the ball-striking was really good. I didn't miss many fairways or greens and that's kind of how you have to play it. It's really a ball-stikers course, so I gave myself as many opportunities as I could.
Behind Gross, Tyler Mawhinney of Fleming Island, Florida, Blades Brown of Nashville, Tennessee, and Asher Whitaker of Wichita, Kansas, are tied for second place after a 3-under-par 69 and sit one stroke off the lead.
Mawhinney is playing in his second Junior PLAYERS Championship and is No. 59 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. He finished in the top five at the Justin Thomas Junior Championship and won the Scott Robertson Memorial earlier this year.
Brown is No. 6 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and has the most AJGA wins in the field this season with two Open victories and one Invitational. Brown is also making his Junior PLAYERS debut.
Whitaker, No. 81 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, has signed a National Letter of Intent to the University of Oklahoma and is competing at TPC Sawgrass for the first time.
Rounding out the top five are Simon Hovdal of Vallda, Sweden, Miles Russell of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Nathan Miller of Dallas Texas and Boyi (Barry) Zhang of (China) Lake Mary, Florida, 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 2.