Polo Junior Classic: Katie Li and Jay Leng Jr win match play titles at Bethpage Black
Katie Li (left) and Jay Leng, Jr. (AJGA photo)
Katie Li (left) and Jay Leng, Jr. (AJGA photo)

Katie Li of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and Jay Leng Jr. of San Diego, California, won the 45th Polo Golf Junior Classic at Bethpage Black. Li and Leng Jr. join a historic list of past Polo Golf Junior Classic Champions, including Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink, Trevor Immelman, Brian Harman, Morgan Hoffman, Matthew NeSmith, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Ariya Jutanugarn and Sierra Brooks.

The field of 64 juniors, 32 boys and 32 girls, was comprised of 32 players with college commitments, 51 AJGA champions, and 28 Rolex Junior All-Americans. The invitational featured seven boys and six girls ranked within the top-25 of the Rolex AJGA Rankings. Reigning Polo Golf Junior Classic champ Byungho Lee of (South Korea) Plano, Texas, came into this week as the top-ranked boy at No. 4 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and Alice Ziyi Zhao of Irvine, California, as the top-ranked girl at No. 5 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.

The Polo Golf Junior Classic returned to historic Bethpage State Park - Black Course for the event's 45th year. The invitational has occurred annually since 1978 and is the second-longest standing AJGA event. Over the years, it has been held at prominent golf courses, including Liberty National Golf Club, PGA National Resort and Spa - Champion & Fazio Courses, Sea Island Golf Club, Innisbrook Resort, and Echo Lake Country Club.

Li won 6&4 over Nikki Oh of Torrance, California, in the Girls' Division championship match. Li jumped out to an early lead of 1-up, but soon became tied and 1-down after 4 holes against Oh. Li took back the lead at No. 5 and never looked back, winning every hole the rest of the front nine. She was 4-up heading to No. 11 when Oh secured a point bringing Li's lead back down to 3-up. Li bounced back at No. 12 and won three straight holes, securing her win on No. 14 by a 6&4 margin.

"I had that mindset of whatever happens, happens," said Li. "I was nervous but more relaxed than anything."

Li advanced out of group play by earning two points in Pool B. In bracket play, she won her quarterfinal match 4&3 over Michelle Woo of Fremont, California and advanced to the finals in dominating fashion over Kylie Chong of Torrance, California, 8&7.

The 2023 Polo Golf Junior Classic marked Li's final AJGA event and her first AJGA Invitational win. This is the No. 6 ranked player in the Rolex AJGA Rankings first win since the 2021 K.J. Choi Foundation Junior Championship by SK Telecom.

What's next for Li?

She will attend Duke University and join the Blue Devils women's golf team in the fall.

Leng Jr. grabbed the lead early on in the finals at No. 2 over Jack Gilbert of Houston, Texas. Gilbert took over the lead after No. 5 to go 1-up. They were all tied up heading into No. 9 when Leng Jr. came back to go 2-up heading into No. 11. His lead remained the same until he hit a hole-in-one on No.14 to go 3-up. Leng Jr. stayed consistent and won 3&2 on No. 16.

"My favorite moment was on hole No. 14 where I made a hole-in-one to go 3-up and close out the match," said Leng. "I thought it was going in the bunker and was surprised when it went in."

Leng Jr. advanced to the elimination bracket by winning all three matches in Pool C. Then in his quarterfinal matchup he had a close win of 2&1 over Kale Fontenot of Lafayette, Louisville, and advanced to the finals over University of Alabama commit Nicholas Gross of Dowingtown, Pennsylvania, 3&1.

The No. 8 ranked player in the Rolex AJGA Rankings was a 2022 first-team Rolex Junior All-American. This is his second AJGA Invitational victory after winning the 2022 PING Invitational. He is verbally committed to Stanford University and played in the 2023 Wyndham Cup for #GoWest.

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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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