PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.(Sept. 4, 2011) — In an up-and-down final round that featured four two- or three-shot swings in the final group, Gavin Hall of Pittsford, N.Y., prevailed with a 3-under-par total and won his first AJGA Invitational at The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf. With the victory, Hall earned a sponsor’s exemption to the Nationwide Tour's Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open Presented by Planters, which will be played Oct. 17-23 on Dye's Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass.
In cooperation with the PGA TOUR, the American Junior Golf Association brought 78 players, ages 12-18, from 21 states and 15 foreign countries to TPC Sawgrass for a special junior golf experience. The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf was mirrored after THE PLAYERS, and the 7,215-yard, par-72 layout on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course matched the set-up used at the PGA TOUR event.
After a bogey on the par-5 ninth cut his lead to one, Hall rebounded and took advantage of the par-5s on the back nine. A two-putt birdie on No. 11 increased his lead to three over Jim Liu of Smithtown, N.Y., and then an up-and-down birdie on No. 16 produced a two-shot cushion over Jonathan Garrick of Atherton, Calif.
Protecting a two-shot lead on the 18th tee, Hall pulled his drive into the right rough. With the aid of a strong wind at his back, he hoisted a 180-yard 9-iron over a tree and onto the front edge of the green. From there he three-putted for bogey, but a final-round 75 was enough to preserve a one-shot victory.
“It was a difficult day out there. The wind started to blow and I was definitely nervous on the first couple holes,” Hall said. “My caddie Mark was a great help this week. He caddied for me last year so it was pretty cool having him back.”
In six weeks, Hall will return to TPC Sawgrass to compete in the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open Presented by Planters. It will be his Nationwide Tour debut, but the 17-year-old has professional experience, having played in the 2010 Turning Stone Resort Championship.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, especially here. This is great weather, great people and a great community,” Hall said. “I kind of got my feet wet last year playing in the PGA TOUR event, and I think coming up this year I’ll be a little more prepared. I learned a lot about myself, especially how to handle my nerves and emotions.”
Garrick and Liu were Hall’s primary challengers during Sunday’s final round. After a front-nine 33, Garrick eagled No. 16 to pull within one shot at the time. He parred Nos. 17 and 18 for a final-round 68 and a 2-under-par total, which was the score to beat with just six players left on the course.
For Liu, the driver was his undoing in the end. When Hall made back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14, Liu countered with a birdie and a par and knotted the score at 3-under-par with four holes remaining. However, poor drives on Nos. 15 and 16 led to a bogey and a double-bogey, and ultimately a T3 finish.
“This entire year my driving has been pretty errant, so that’s cost me a lot of tournaments,” Liu said. “Other than that I played pretty well and I’m happy with my game, and Gavin deserves this after coming back from his injury. This is a great way to start.”
Gavin Moynihan of Maynooth, Ireland, carded a final-round 72 and finished tied for third with Liu at 1-over-par. Scott Scheffler of Dallas fired a 3-under-par 69 and moved 18 spots up the leaderboard to finish fifth.
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ABOUT THE Junior Players Championship
One of the AJGA series of tournaments that
require an invitation to participate. Format is
54 holes of stroke play.
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