Thorp, Chang claim Junior World titles at Torrey Pines
Adam Thorp (AmateurGolf.com photo)
Adam Thorp (AmateurGolf.com photo)

SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2018) – Adam Thorp’s first impression of the United States will always be Torrey Pines. The 17-year-old from Australia made his first trip stateside this week for the IMG Academy Junior World Championship and followed in the footsteps of idols Jason Day and Tiger Woods when he notched a win here.

Thorp recently won a small regional event in New South Wales but other than that has had trouble getting over the hump to win – to the tune of 10 runner-up finishes in the past few months. In his first Junior World appearance, he fought his swing down the stretch but still managed to come out on top. He entered the week hoping for a top 10 but changed his sights as the week went on.

Thorp opened the tournament with rounds of 68-73-70 at Torrey Pines’ South Course, a par 72. But Friday was a much different day for the eventual champion than the previous three rounds had been. He lost his confidence over the ball and struggled with distances. His go-to shot, a low draw, just wouldn’t work, and it left him grinding – and looking for the best place to miss on each shot.

“The swing just wasn’t there today,” he said. “I struggled a lot off the tee and with my irons. My putting saved me.”

Thorp had gotten it to 6 under by the time he made the turn in the final round, but that’s when the real test came. He bogeyed two of his first three holes before recovering with a birdie at No. 14. Two bogeys followed in the next three holes, and Thorp tried not to panic.

He wasn’t sure where he stood on the leaderboard when he reached the 18th tee.

“I thought I needed a birdie to win,” he said.

Thorp left himself 72 yards from the green for his approach on the par-5 18th and knocked it to 10 feet above the hole. The pin placement was a throwback to Sunday of the 2008 U.S Open, and Thorp made the putt for birdie and a final-round 73.

“It meant a lot to me to keep going and save it at the end,” Thorp said of the victory.

The eleventh-hour birdie left Thorp 4 under for the week and one shot ahead of Chase Sienkiewicz of Carmichael, Calif. Sienkiewicz had a 3-under 69 to put pressure on Thorp all day on Friday. The two players fed off each other.

Behind that, Preston Summerhays of Scottsdale, Ariz., finished 72 holes at 2 under and George Duangmanee of Fairfax, Va., was another shot behind that.

In the girls division, Taiwan player Tzu-Yi Chang used strong ball-striking to dive to 8 under for the tournament and win by four. The 17-year-old doesn’t play on a junior or amateur tour in her home country, but rather plays as an amateur in Taiwan LPGA events. She has been doing that since she was 13, partly because junior events are so small that she would find herself playing with the same girls over and over and partly because the Taiwan LPGA needed more players.

She brought a much different mind-set to Torrey Pines’ North Course this week than she has when she competes at home.

“On the Taiwan LPGA, my goal is to make the cut,” she said, smiling. “Here, my goal is to win.”

Part of what helped her accomplish that was a focus on her putting.

“After the first round I practiced a lot of shots on the practice green, so I feel really good with my putter after the last three rounds,” she said. “I just didn’t expect that much, just putt toward the hole.”

Chang is seasoned enough to know that there’s such a thing as trying too hard. Her motto at Torrey Pines was, “100 percent commitment, 80 percent effort.” Chang knows she wants to play college golf in the U.S. – specifically on the West Coast – but she’s not ready to disclose where just yet.

Chang finished at the top of a heavily international leaderboard. Doey Choi of Australia was second, followed by Japan’s Kano Nakamura in third.

ABOUT THE IMG Junior World

Age Divisions: 15-17, 13-14, 11-12, 9-10, 7-8, 6-under. 72 hole stroke play event for 15-17 division, 54 holes for other divisions. Qualifying required for 15-17, other divisions. Played at multiple courses in the San Diego area. Online application process begins approx. Feb 1.

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