Vilips, Li take early lead at Rolex Tournament of Champions
Lucy Li (USGA photo)
Lucy Li (USGA photo)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 19, 2018) – The opening round of the Rolex Tournament of Champions was something of a throw-back to another top junior event of the summer. First-round leaders Karl Vilips and Lucy Li also led after the first round of the U.S. Junior and U.S. Girls’ Junior.

Vilips, an Australian who resides in Wesley Chapel, Fla., shot a 7-under-par 65 on PGA National’s Fazio course that included eight birdies. The 17-year-old, who has five AJGA titles to his name, is playing in his second Rolex Tournament of Champions and most recently won a gold medal for Team Australia at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.

"I struck the ball really well off the tee today, which led to lots of wedge opportunities, and my wedges were on fire," Vilips said. "I didn't putt my best outside of 10 feet, but I wasn't outside of 10 feet much. On this course I'm yet to miss a fairway or green, but I know it will be much different tomorrow (on the Champion Course)."

Californians Dylan Menante of Carlsbad, and Ricky Castillo of Yorba Linda are tied for second two shots back. Menante won the Callaway Golf Junior Championship and tied for sixth at last month’s PING Invitational. Castillo won the 2018 PING Heather Farr Classic and recently signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Florida.

Six players are tied for fourth at 4-under-par 68 including recently-crowned 2018 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Akshay Bhatia of Wake Forest, N.C. Bhatia was also named to the U.S. Walker Cup practice squad on Monday. He was the only junior golfer to be included.

On the girls’ side, Li finished the day with a 2-under 70 on PGA National’s Champions course. During her 2017 victory in this event, the 16-year-old took the lead in the second round, but thanks to a 3-under 33 over the front nine on Monday, the four-time AJGA champion started stronger in her second appearance at the Rolex Tournament of Champions.

“I played pretty well today,” said Li, a member of the victorious U.S. Curtis Cup team this past summer. “I made a few mistakes down the stretch but made a lot of good par saves so I had a lot of good momentum. Coming back it feels good to have played well, and I just need to keep doing what I’m doing the rest of the week.”

Megha Ganne of Holmdel, N.J., is one shot back at 1-under 71.

Four players are tied for third including Aneka Seumanutafa, Christine Wang, Yu Wen Lu and Siyan Chen.

Information from the AJGA used in this report

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ABOUT THE Rolex Tournament of Champions

The Rolex Tournament of Champions hosted at PGA National Resort & Spa featured 144 of the best junior golfers in the world from 14 countries on both the Fazio and Champion Courses. The tournament assembles the Rolex Junior All-Americans with the past year’s champions to create The Greatest Week in Junior Golf. There are 69 current or former Rolex Junior All- Americans in the field, with a total of 93 AJGA champions competing. Format is 72 holes of stroke play, with boys and girls competitions.

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