AJGA Polo Junior: Jutanugarn, Wood claim prestigious titles
25 Nov 2012
see also: Polo Junior Golf Classic, Echo Lake Country Club

Adam Wood & Ariya Jutanugarn pose with their Polo trophies
Adam Wood & Ariya Jutanugarn pose with their Polo trophies

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (Nov. 25, 2012) -- Ariya Jutanugarn capped her junior and amateur career Friday with a 5-and-4 victory over Angel Yin at the Polo Golf Junior Classic. With the win, Jutanugarn became the first reigning Rolex Junior Player of the Year to be victorious at the Polo Golf Junior Classic since Vicky Hurst won in 2007.

In the Boys Division, Adam Wood erased a 2-down deficit through three holes by carding six birdies en route to a 3-and-1 victory over Scott Scheffler. Wood’s victory comes on the heels of a semifinal appearance at the 2011 Polo Golf Junior Classic, which gives him an 8-1 match play record at this event over the last two years.

The Polo Golf Junior Classic, which has been conducted annually since 1978, marked the first tournament of the American Junior Golf Association's 2013 season. The 156-player invitation-only field is made up of 78 boys and 78 girls, ages 13-18, from 33 states, Puerto Rico and 11 foreign countries. Former champions include Stewart Cink (1989), Trevor Immelman (1995), Tiger Woods (1991), Paula Creamer (2002), Grace Park (1994, 1996) and Morgan Pressel (2004).

During Friday’s championship, the Boys Division played the Champion Course at 7,136 yards (par 71), while the Girls Division played at 6,404 yards (par 72).

Girls DivisionJutanugarn did not lose a hole during the championship match, as she closed her 5-and-4 victory by going 2-under-par and bogey-free through 14 holes. Though her 14-year-old opponent outdrove her most of the day, Jutanugarn used solid iron play to apply the pressure on Yin.

“I played really well today and made a lot of putts,” said Jutanugarn, whose 17th birthday was Friday. “My irons helped me a lot today.”

A year after she missed the cut at this event, Jutanugarn returned and earned stroke play co-medalist honors. Only one of her five matches went past the 15th hole (a 2-and-1 quarterfinal win over Simin Feng) and she did not lose a hole over the last 27 holes of the tournament.

“I played last year but missed the cut, and I really hoped to come back this year and do my best,” Jutanugarn said. “Now that I’ve won, I’m so proud because all the great players from around the world come to this tournament.”

Since she began playing junior golf in the United States in 2009, Jutanugarn has eight national victories, four of which were AJGA Invitationals. The Polo Golf Junior Classic marks the end of her amateur career, as she will compete in Ladies European Tour Qualifying School in December.

“My goal was to win this tournament, and by winning it makes me really confident to turn pro,” she said.

Yin was the youngest player to advance to match play, and her appearance in the championship match was her best showing in national competition since she was a co-champion at the 2011 Joanne Winter Arizona Silver Belle. She played in eight other AJGA tournaments this year, four of which were Invitationals, and earned honorable mention Rolex Junior All-America accolades.

Boys DivisionWood prevailed in the match against No. 1 seed Scheffler with his ability to get up and down at crucial moments. With Scheffler landing his approach shots within 10 feet in the first three holes, Wood was 2-down and needed to turn the match in his favor.

“He (Scheffler) made two big putts on (Nos.) 2 and 3 for birdie, and I was kind of feeling the pressure because I knew he could catch fire and make a lot of birdies. I knew I had to do something,” said Wood, who won his first AJGA Invitational title. “I birdied (Nos.) 4, 5 and 7 and that kind of jumpstarted my round a little bit and I got my swing into a groove, so I could play quality shots and never let up.”

Wood claimed his first lead on the par-3 seventh, one of his six birdies on the day, when Scheffler found a greenside bunker and missed his par attempt. Before making the turn, Scheffler made a 30-foot birdie putt and the pair went back to all square.

Once the duo made the turn Wood increased his lead to 2-up with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, but he hit a rough patch on the par-4 13th after landing in a fairway bunker and carrying his approach shot over the green. He quickly returned his lead to 2-up on No. 14 when Scheffler failed to save par, and the match went dormie on No. 17. At the tee box Wood took a moment to gather his composure before landing within six feet of his final hole.

“For me my tendency is to play a little fast when I get nervous, so I was trying to slow down helps me pace myself,” said Wood, who won on No. 17 when Scheffler conceded the hole. “It helps me hit quality shots like I did, but playing with Scottie was so much fun, he’s such a great guy and golfer and I was lucky that I got to play some of my best golf today.”

In his second appearance at the Polo Golf Junior Classic, Wood led after the first round of stroke play and was the No. 6 seed heading into round one of match play. He entered the semifinals after defeating Scott Jaster (No. 14 seed) 1-up and earned a berth into the finals after beating (No. 10 seed) Ben Dietrich 6-and-5, a feat that he did not accomplish in 2011 against Parker Derby in the semifinals.

Scheffler defeated four Rolex Junior All-Americans before facing off against Wood in the finals. Since 2008 he has tallied six top-five finishes in national competition, including his fifth-place showing at The PING Invitational, and is a two-time Rolex Junior All-American.

About the American Junior Golf AssociationThe American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships, and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,500 junior golfers from 49 states and more than 40 countries. To ensure scholarship opportunities for all junior golfers who have the skill, the AJGA created the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant program to provide financial assistance to young players in need.

Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex, which is in its third decade of AJGA support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.

AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 500 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park and Morgan Pressel.

ABOUT THE Polo Junior Classic

One of the AJGA series of tournaments that require an invitation to participate. Format is 72 holes of stroke play, with a cut after 54 holes. Open to boys and girls aged 12-19.

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