PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – No. 1 seed Mariel Galdiano of Pearl City, Hawaii, defeated two first-team Rolex Junior All-Americans on Thursday and advanced to play Muni He of Rancho Santa Fe, California in Friday’s championship match at the Polo Golf Junior Classic. In the Boys Division, Cooper Dossey of Austin, Texas, won his semifinal match in 19 holes and earned a spot in the championship against Ryan Gerard of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Galdiano may be the 1-seed, but her path to the finals included a win over Alyaa Abdulghany, the No. 11 player in the Polo Golf Rankings, and Sierra Brooks, the defending champion. Galdiano needed 19 holes to win her quarterfinal match against Abdulghany, and a conceded birdie on No. 18 gave her a 2-up win over Brooks in the semifinals.

“Both Alyaa and Sierra are great players, Sierra especially because she went 3-0-0 at the PING Junior Solheim Cup,” Galdiano said. “Going against her was a little difficult because we’re good friends and have known each other for a long time.”

By advancing to the finals, Galdiano is in position to become the first No. 1 seed to win since Vicky Hurst won in 2007. She will face He, whose day included a quarterfinal win over Kristen Gillman, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. In He’s semifinal match against Emilee Hoffman, she never trailed and advanced with a 3-and-2 win.

“I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who’s strong at match play, but this year I’ve discovered that you have to take control of the game,” He said. “You have to try your best to fight instead of trying to play off someone else.”

The boys championship will come down to Dossey and Gerard. In the semifinals against Nate Menon, Dossey forced extra holes after being 2-down with eight holes to play. A 25 mph wind was helping the players on the 344-yard, par-4 first hole, and Dossey took advantage. After he drove the green, he made a 20-foot eagle putt to secure his spot in the championship match.

“This afternoon I was hitting my driver in the fairway, so I figured I might as well try it. On the tee box I didn’t want to back down, so I went for it,” Dossey said. “I think that’s the biggest putt I’ve ever made in my life. I missed a lot of putts inside six feet for birdie, but it felt really good to finally get one in at that time.”

Before advancing to the finals, Dossey earned the 30-seed with a birdie on the fifth hole of an 8-for-5 playoff Tuesday night. On Wednesday, he defeated the two finalists from the 2014 Polo Golf Junior Classic (Spencer Soosman, Matthew Wolff), and on Thursday he started with a 2-and-1 quarterfinal win over Ryan Grider, a second-team Rolex Junior All-American.

Gerard’s path to the final included two matches against Rolex Junior All-Americans. In the quarterfinals, he downed Aden Ye, 2 and 1, and in the afternoon he never trailed and won his semifinal match against Norman Xiong, 4 and 3.

In 2015, Gerard tallied four AJGA top-five finishes, including a win at the Midwest Junior Players Championship. He is currently No. 58 in the Polo Golf Rankings and has verbally committed to UNC-Chapel Hill.

“I’m playing really well. I’m playing as well as I ever have this week,” Gerard said. “It’s a fresh start tomorrow, it doesn’t matter if you shot 10-under today or 10-over. You still have to play the same guy tomorrow and it starts all over.”

The boys championship match will begin at 8 a.m., while the girls championship will begin at 8:15 a.m. Both matches will be played on PGA National Resort & Spa’s Champion Course.

- story courtesy AJGA

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ABOUT THE AJGA Polo Junior Classic

One of the AJGA series of tournaments that require an invitation to participate. Format is 36 holes of stroke play qualifying, from which 32 players advance to match play.

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