Scheffler Advances to Quarters at Polo Junior
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Rolex Junior Player of the Year Scott Scheffler of Dallas, posted decisive victories in his first two matches to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals. Stroke play medalist Kristen Gillman won her pair of matches to punch her ticket to the quarterfinals in the Girls Division.

The Polo Golf Junior Classic, which has been conducted annually since 1978, marks the first tournament of the American Junior Golf Association's 2014 season. The 156-player invitation-only field is made up of 78 boys and 78 girls, ages 13-18, from 27 states and seven 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).

In the Boys Division, No. 2 seed Scheffler posted wins of 6 and 4 over No. 31 seed Tony Gil of Vaughan, Ontario, and 5 and 4 over No. 15 seed Yechun (Carl) Yuan of Lake Mary, Fla. The future Texas Longhorn is playing in his second Polo Golf Junior Classic and first match play event since winning the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in July.

“I was playing pretty solid all day and didn’t make many mistakes,” Scheffler said. “I’m feeling pretty good since I was so close last year. I also gained a lot of confidence from the U.S. Junior (Amateur Championship) and I had a good summer with match play.”

Scheffler will take on No. 7 seed and United Kingdom native Sam Horsfield in the quarterfinals.

On the opposite side of the bracket, determination was the theme, as No. 32 seed Austin Connelly of Irving, Texas, notched wins over top-seeded Derek Castillo of Yorba Linda, Calif., and No. 17 seed Hidetoshi Yoshihara of Irvine, Calif. Connelly earned his way into match play by way of a seven for six, sudden- death playoff, taking the final spot in the field after making par on the first playoff hole.

“I was fairly confident because I played fairly well during stroke play,” Connelly said.

“I felt good [about the match] because I was hitting it pretty well, rolling it pretty good, and Derek is one of my closest friends. I’ve played with him a lot before.”

Also showing perseverance was No. 5 seed Cameron Young of Scarborough, N.Y. The 2015 graduate played 38 holes Wednesday, defeating No. 28 seed Ryan Grider of Lewisville, Texas, 1-Up, and knocking out No. 21 seed Andy Zhang of Reunion, Fla., after 20 holes of play.

In the Girls Division, the drama played out in the first round of matches as Linnea Ström of Hovas, Sweden, defeated the only former champion in the Girls Division in No. 15 seed Nicole Morales of South Salem, N.Y., 3 and 2. No. 18 seed Ström would make quick work of her second match, defeating second-seeded Michaela Owen, 7 and 6.

The stories continued to unfold throughout the day as No. 10 seed Bethany Wu of Diamond Bar, Calif., faced No. 7 seed Angel Yin of Arcadia, Calif., in the second round. The match, a rematch of the 2012 Polo Golf Junior Classic semifinals, saw a different ending than last year after Wu ended the contest on the 14th hole, winning, 5 and 4.

“After I won my match against Shannon (Aubert), I knew I was playing Angel (Yin),” Wu said. “It brought back memories of last year and I just wanted to beat her this time. Last year was pretty tough. After I was 1- down through our first hole, I thought, ‘No, I need to win.’”

Wu’s match play experience bode her well coming into her third Polo Golf Junior Classic. The UCLA verbal commit represented the United States as a member of the U.S. Team at the PING Junior Solheim Cup in August and made a semifinals appearance in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

“I played well at U.S. Girls (Junior Championship) and the PING Junior Solheim Cup, so I knew it would fit me well coming back to Polo this year.”

Wu and Ström will face each other in the Thursday’s quarterfinals. Each have claimed ANNIKA Invitational titles – Wu, the 2013 ANNIKA Invitational Champion and Ström, the 2012 ANNIKA Invitational Europe victor. Stroke play medalist Gillman is making her first appearance at the Polo Golf Junior Classic, although playing like a seasoned veteran.

“I started playing too aggressively in my first match, and fell off really bad,” Gillman said.

“So I thought I just need go for the middle of the green and make par.”

Despite little match play experience, Gillman transitioned from stroke play to match play with ease.

“I’ve only played a few match play events, maybe 10 rounds,” Gillman said. “But, I still have the mindset I had when I was playing stroke play – just play my best golf and have fun.”

Top-seeded Gillman will face No. 8 seed Dylan Kim of Winter Garden, Fla., after winning back- to-back matches with 5-and-4 decisions. Also advancing to the quarterfinals are No. 3 seed Sierra Brooks of Sorrento, Fla., No. 11 seed Jillian Hollis of Rocky River, Ohio, No. 13 seed Lakareber Abe of Angleton, Texas, and No. 21 seed Lilia Vu of Fountain Valley, Calif. The quarterfinal matches are set for Thursday morning, while the semifinals will be determined Thursday afternoon.

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ABOUT THE Polo Junior Classic

Sixty-four top junior golfers will be invited to compete in a round-robin style match play event. Based on the Rolex AJGA Rankings, an equal field of 32 boys (Polo Division) and 32 girls (Liberty Division) will be divided into eight groupings of four players each to compete in three guaranteed singles matches. The top eight Polo Division boys and Liberty Division girls from each group after pool play will advance to single- elimination matches.

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