Schaper wins 1st AJGA Invite at hurricane-condensed Jr Players
Jayden Schaper (AJGA/Facebook photo)
Jayden Schaper (AJGA/Facebook photo)

Jayden Schaper of Benoni, South Africa, entered the final round of the Junior Players Championship with a share of the lead, but he quickly pulled ahead on his way to winning his first AJGA Invitational by one stroke at 6-under 210.

With the pending arrival of Hurricane Dorian, the tournament format was changed to include two 18-hole shotgun rounds on Aug. 30 and the final 18 on Aug. 31.

Schaper entered the final round tied for the lead with Brett Roberts of Coral Springs, Fla., at 4-under 140. That share of the lead wouldn’t last long however, as Schaper opened the final round with a birdie on the par-4 No. 1. He would go on to par his next four holes before making another birdie on the par-4 No. 6 to reach 6-under for the tournament.

Despite the momentum from the two birdies over his first six holes, the South African struggled on his way to the turn with back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 7 and 8 to finish his opening nine at even-par 36. Unflappable, Schaper bounced back with back-to-back birdies on the par-5 No. 11 and the par-4 No. 12. Over the next five holes Schaper made three pars and both a bogey and a birdie to hold onto a one-stroke lead as he stepped up to No. 18. Needing par for his first AJGA Invitational victory, Schaper striped his tee shot down the fairway but came up just right of the green on his approach. With a crowd watching, the 18-year-old chipped to six feet below the hole and sunk the putt for par and the win.

"It's just amazing," Schaper said. "One of the big goals for me was getting a win over here. I mean when I arrived here on Monday the thought was there, but I never thought it was going to happen, but I backed it up with some good golf and to walk away with it is still sinking in."

This was Schaper’s third-consecutive year competing in the Junior Players Championship, with his previous-best finish coming in 2017 at T24. That year he finished at 3-over-par 219. His final-round 2-under-par 70 this year cemented a final-round total of 6-under-par 210. His victory this year also ended a streak of three-consecutive Junior Players Championships being decided by a playoff.

Bo Jin of (China) Encinitas, Calif., finished in second at 5-under-par 211. Jin came to TPC Sawgrass this year seeking redemption, after losing in a three-hole aggregate playoff in 2018. The 2020 grad got off to a hot start with an eagle on the par-5 No. 2 on his way to making the turn at 1-under-par 35. Jin’s bogey on the par-4 No. 5 would prove to be his only of the day, as he made two birdies on his back nine to card a final-round, 3-under-par 69. One of those birdies came on No. 18 to get within one stroke of the lead.

Jin is verbally committed to Oklahoma State University and was a 2018 Rolex Junior All-American. He won the 2017 AJGA Junior at Riverwatch. Jin finished second at the 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur and is ranked No. 12 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.

Karl Vilips of (Australia) Wesley Chapel, Fla., finished in third at 4-under-par 212. The Stanford University verbal commit caught fire on his front nine, carding four birdies to just one bogey to make the turn at 3-under-par 33. His back-to-back birdies on the par-5 No. 9 and the par-4 No. 10 gave the Australian the solo lead for the time being at 6-under-par. That lead would be short lived however, as Vilips made three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 12-14 to fall back. Vilips didn’t give up though, as an eagle on the par-5 No. 13 put him right in the thick of things. In the end however, the deficit was too much to overcome, as a bogey on No. 18 left Vilips two-strokes back after a final-round 2-under-par 70.

Vilips owns five AJGA victories and is a three-time Rolex Junior All-American. He is T7 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.

Gordon Sargent of Birmingham, Ala., and first-round leader Maxwell Moldovan of Uniontown, Ohio, finished T4 at 3-under-par 213. Sargent is verbally committed to Vanderbilt University and owns two AJGA victories. Moldovan is verbally committed to Ohio State University and won the 2019 Polo Golf Junior Classic at Liberty National. He is No. 4 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.

Jackson Van Paris of Pinehurst, N.C., finished in sixth at 2-under-par 214. The Vanderbilt University verbal commit won the 2019 AJGA Simplify Boys Championship at Carlton Woods and is No. 15 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.

Canon Claycomb of Bowling Green, Ky.; Nicholas Arcement of Thibodaux, La.; Nathan Franks of Roebuck, S.C.; Jang Hyun Lee of Seoul, South Korea; Nicolas Muller of Golf de Nîmes Campagne, France; Martin Vorster of Mossel Bay, South Africa; Ian Siebers of Bellevue, Wash.; and Roberts finished T7 at 1-under-par 215.

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One of the AJGA series of tournaments that require an invitation to participate. Format is 54 holes of stroke play.

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