MESA, Ariz. (March 24, 2008)--Despite being two of the youngest players in the ReBath Heather Farr Classic field, Trey Kaahanui, 14, and Kyung Kim, 13, were not intimidated by the more experienced competition, as the Arizona residents picked up their first AJGA titles Sunday.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association at Longbow Golf Club, the ReBath Heather Farr Classic featured 138 players from 20 states, Canada, the Cayman Islands and Scotland. The field consisted of 90 boys and 48 girls, ages 12-18, and included 15 Rolex Junior All-Americans. Playing to a par 71, Longbow Golf Club measured 7,001 yards for the boys and 6,150 yards for the girls.
The 54-hole stroke play event's past champions list includes Hunter Mahan (1999), Philip Francis (2006), Amanda Blumenherst (2002) and Paula Creamer (2003, 2004).
For Kaahanui, of Tempe, playing in his fourth AJGA event, the age factor was a non-factor, as he has received plenty of good advice for competing against veteran players.
"A lot of people say, 'You're good, don't worry. Play your game and have fun out there,'" Kaahanui said. "That really helps, it makes me feel better."
Entering the event relatively unknown, a pair of 65s in the first two rounds grabbed everyone's attention. After building an eight-shot advantage in the Boys Division, Kaahanui coasted to victory with a 2-over-par 73 Sunday for a tournament total of 65-65-73--203.
"Today didn't feel much different than any other day," he said. "I played my game and didn't worry about other players. But I did feel more confident with a big lead."
Although his final round was slow starting, as he made three bogeys in his first five holes, Kaahanui played his remaining holes at 1-under-par and never saw his lead fall below five strokes.
"Everything's been going well these three days," he said. "This is a big tournament, so I just put a lot more thought into every shot. Winning this tournament opens up a lot of opportunities."
In second place, five shots back, was Nicholas Losole III, of Scottsdale, Ariz., who shot 68-71-69--208. Tied for third were Rak Cho of Brea, Calif., James Erkenbeck of San Diego, and Robbie Ziegler of Canby, Ore., at 210.
In the Girls Division, Kim, of Chandler, was playing in only her third AJGA event, so it is understandable that she developed a case of nerves. Fortunately, those nerves didn't show up until she was standing over a six-foot putt on the final hole. Clinging to a two-stroke lead, Kim was not about to let victory slip from her grasp.
She had already outperformed one of the highest ranked players in the country -- 15-year-old Danielle Frasier of Encinitas, Calif. -- two-time Rolex Junior All-American who is ranked 15th in the Polo Golf Rankings.
Although Frasier entered the final round with a one-shot lead, Kim parred the first six holes, while Frasier bogeyed her first three in a stiff morning wind. Kim took the lead after the second hole and never relinquished it.
"It was difficult today because it was windy and the pin placements were hard," Kim said. "Many of the holes were right behind bunkers."
The wind didn't knock Kim off course, as she made two birdies and two bogeys to escape with an even-par round and finish the tournament at 70-68-71--209. No one in the field scored lower on Sunday. Her final hole told the story, as she came to the tee with a two-shot lead.
After hitting her tee shot down the middle, there was much work left to be done on the 411-yard par 4 to secure the victory.
"I hit a 7-wood into the green because the wind was in my face," Kim said. "I had a six-foot putt and my hands were shaking. It was the last hole and everybody was watching."
Just as she had all day, Kim stayed calm under pressure, draining the birdie putt to close out a three-stroke victory.
After leading the first two days, Frasier fell into second place with a 1-under-par total of 212. Tied for third place was a pair of Hawaiians, Stephanie Kono of Honolulu and Kimberly Kim of Pahoa, at 215. Kono tied Kim for the low final round at even-par 71.
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