Dunlap, Romero claim first AJGA titles at Polo Juniors
Nicholas Dunlap & Kiara Romero [Photo: AJGA]
Nicholas Dunlap & Kiara Romero [Photo: AJGA]

Nicholas Dunlap, Photo: AJGA
Two first-time AJGA Champions were crowned this week, as Nicholas Dunlap (Huntsville, Ala.) and Kiara Romero (San Jose, Calif.) were each able to hold off 31 other golfers at the Polo Golf Junior Classic, held at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.

In the final match of the Boys’ Polo Bracket, Dunlap was unable to gain a lead for the entirety his match-up with Benjamin James (Milford, Conn.), until the match was decided on the second playoff hole. James, who is verbally committed to play his collegiate golf at the University of Virginia, jumped two a quick two-hole lead after four holes, and stretched his lead to three holes with a win on the 10th hole.

Dunlap, a verbal commit to the University of Alabama, was able to battle his way back on the inward nine, trimming the deficit from three holes to one with wins on holes 12 and 15. While James won the 16th hole to go up by two holes with two to play, Dunlap was able to force extra holes with wins on the 17th and 18th.

While both golfers made par on the first playoff hole, it was a birdie for Dunlap on the par 5 second hole that gave him his first lead of the day at the best possible time.

Dunlap, currently the 7th ranked junior player in the most recent Rolex AJGA Rankings came into the week following a tie for second at the Wyndham Invitational and a tie for fifth at the Western Junior Championship. He finished the week 6-0 in match play.

“I don’t think it has settled in yet,” he told the AJGA. “From being two-down, two to play to ending up winning just shows me to never give up. For this to be my first AJGA and invitational win out here, it’s just awesome – makes it so much better.”

In the Liberty Division, Romero, the 46th rated junior girls’ golfer in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, finished 6-0 during this week’s match play, and extended her undefeated streak in match play to 11 with her 2 up victory over 44th ranked Katie Li (Basking Ridge, N.J).

Romero was able to gain a two-hole advantage with birdies on holes four and eight. Li mounted a valiant comeback, capturing holes 10, 12, and 15 to go from 2-down to 1-up with three holes to play. From then on, it was Romero’s time to shine. The California Junior Girls’ State Champion finished her round with three consecutive birdies, claiming victory on each of holes 16, 17 and 18 to emerge victorious by a final margin of 2 up.

After finishing in the top five multiple times at AJGA events over the past two years, including a runner-up at the 2020 AJGA Junior at Sunriver, and a pair of third-place finishes at the 2020 AJGA Longbow Golf Cup Open and AJGA Lake Las Vegas Junior, Romero was thrilled to emerge victorious at an AJGA event for the first time.

“These last few years I never won an AJGA tournament,” she told the association. “I’ve gotten runner-up so it just feels really good to finally get the win.”

View results for Polo Junior Classic
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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