Riley Lewis, Po En Huang take victories at rain-shortened Golfweek International Junior Invitational

Riley Lewis and Po En Huang took home medalist honors after a rain-shortened 18-hole shootout.

The 20th annual Golfweek International Junior Invitational was still able to crown two new champions, despite being shortened to just 18 holes thanks to a rained-out first round on Saturday.

There were 21 countries represented, and in the end, it was Riley Lewis of the United States and Po En Huang of Taiwan who took home medalist honors after the 18-hole shootout at Eagle Landing Golf Club in Orange Park, Florida.

Huang was paired with Maximillian Jelinek of the Czech Republic, who led the event for the majority of the day thanks in part to a trio of birdies to take a 2-under score to the halfway house. Huang bided his time and was just one shot back of Jelinek as the pair made the turn, alongside a handful of other competitors.

Po En Huang
Po En Huang poses with the trophy following his win at the Golfweek International Junior Invitational at Eagle Landing Golf Club. Photo by of Ron Gaines/Golfweek

It wasn’t until the duo got to the par-3 13th where the tide turned. Huang birdied while Jelinek bogeyed, forcing a two-shot swing.

With the roles reversed, Huang was able to hold off any further advances from the field with five pars to close out his round for a 2-under 70 and a one-shot victory.

On the girls’ side, Lewis was able to use her back-nine birdie barrage to finish with a 4-under 68 and a two-shot victory over McKenzie Mages.

One over through nine holes, Lewis turned on the afterburners with birdies on Nos. 10, 11, 12, 14, and 15 to gain the difference over the field.

“I played alright on the front side,” Lewis told Golfweek. “[I] knew I needed some more birdies for a top finish. Once I made birdies on [Nos.] 10, 11, and 12, I thought to myself ‘time for a comeback’.”

Pulling off just that, the 2022 Iowa commit found herself in the winner’s circle after an extended break from tournament golf.

With their wins, Lewis and Huang join a list of champions that include Nick Gabrelcik, Morgan Hoffmann, Stephanie Meadow, Annie Park, Bailey Tardy and Peter Uihlein.

Riley Lewis
Riley Lewis poses with the trophy after winning the 2021 Golfweek International Junior Invitational. Photo by of Ron Gaines/Golfweek

Past champions of the Golfweek International Junior Invitational

2001

Chanin Puntawong and Nicole Perrott

(Champions Gate, Orlando)

2003

Jon McLean and Tiffany Chuda

(Sea Trail, Sunset Beach, North Carolina)

2004

Peter Uihlein and Jenny Arseneault

(Sea Trail, Sunset Beach, North Carolina)

2005

Rafael Lee and Isabel Lendl

(Sea Trail, Sunset Beach, North Carolina)

2006

Morgan Hoffmann and Elisa Aoki

(Ocean Plantation, Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina)

2007

Julian Suri and Stephanie Kim

(Grand Cypress, Orlando)

2008

Josh Eure and Stephanie Meadow

(Longleaf, Pinehurst, North Carolina)

2009

Mike Miller and Stephanie Meadow

(Reunion Legacy, Orlando)

2010

Sam Chun and Doris Chen

(Reunion Independence, Orlando)

2011

James Yoon and Annie Park

(Shingle Creek, Orlando)

2012

Zachary Healy and Yueer Cindy Feng

(Celebration, Orlando)

2013

Luis Garza and Bailey Tardy

(Shingle Creek, Orlando)

2014

Marcos Montenegro and Ana Paula Valdes

(Champions Gate, Orlando)

2015

Robin Wang and Ya Chun Chang

(Lake Buena Vista and Tranquilo, Orlando)

2016

Jan Schneider and Chin Tzu Chen

(Disney Magnolia and Palm, Orlando)

2017

Jeremy Sisson and Chin Tzu Chen

(Innisbrook, Palm Harbor, Florida)

2018

Nick Gabrelcik and Meiyi Yan

(Mission Inn, Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida)

2019

Tony Chen and Jenny Kwok

(Champions Gate, Orlando)

2020

Alejandro Fierro and Toa Yokoyama

(Hammock Beach Conservatory and Ocean Courses, Palm Coast, Florida)

2021

Po En Huang and Riley Lewis

(Eagle Landing Golf Club, Orange Park, Florida)

AJGA Rolex Junior Players of the Year Megha Ganne, Nicholas Dunlap have wise words from the top level of junior golf

A couple of the nation’s top juniors have wise words about setting goals and cherishing the moment.

For the past few years, there’s been one particular end-of-season memory that has stuck with Megha Ganne. It’s the exclamation point on the AJGA competition calendar: the Rolex Tournament of Champions. The co-ed season ender includes a rite of passage for the top male and female junior players in the country. Each gets the floor at the season-ending banquet to give the player-of-the-year speech.

Ganne listened to Yealimi Noh, the now 20-year-old LPGA player with a Solheim Cup appearance under her belt, give it in 2018. Future Stanford teammates Rachel Heck (2017) and Rose Zhang did it (2019, 2020), too. Now the torch is passed to Ganne, who will duck stand-and-deliver duties this year because of lingering COVID-19 regulations forcing the banquet to remain virtual, but the point is the same.

“Honestly they’re all really moving to show how hard they worked over the years,” Ganne said of listening to those speeches.

The Rolex Player of the Year Award has a long, distinguished history of past champions, including Ariya Jutanugarn, Paula Creamer and Inbee Park on the women’s side and Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on the men’s side.

“It’s the biggest honor you can get playing junior golf events and AJGAs,” Ganne said. “It’s a great goal to keep in mind through those winters and practice sessions and to be considered for the award and receive it, it’s the best feeling.”

Megha Ganne
Megha Ganne reacts to a putt on the sixth hole with her caddie Michael Finn during the third round at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California, on Saturday, June 5, 2021. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/USGA)

Ganne, of Holmdel, New Jersey, ended 2021 with appearances on four national teams (the Met Golf Association’s Carey Cup, the Junior Ryder Cup, the Junior Solheim Cup, and as a non-playing alternate on the Curtis Cup), a feat unheard of for a 17-year-old. Then again, Ganne did a lot of things unheard of for a player her age over the past year. Contending at the U.S. Women’s Open in June, where she ultimately finished T-14 (and as the low amateur) is at the top of that list.

One thing still on the bucket list? Win an AJGA invitational – the series of tournaments that feature the organizations’ deepest fields.

“I’m very good at coming in top 3 but not quite winning them,” Ganne joked, referencing top-3 finishes at the AJGA Girls Championship, Rolex Tournament of Champions, and twice at the ANNIKA Invitational, “so I’d like to do that. Hopefully at (the Rolex Tournament of Champions) or maybe I’ll play another one early next year.”

For all Ganne accomplished in 2021, two learning curves stood out specifically. One was to cherish the parts of amateur and junior golf – like the team competitions – where she was able to cultivate friendships. It has her looking forward to a college career at Stanford that will begin in 2022.

The other? Don’t expect to play as well as you can every time you tee it up.

“It’s just really hard to play your best in every single event, even if you feel like you have to because it’s this event or that event,” she said. “You can’t expect yourself to bring your absolute A-game each time and that’s completely normal and something I have to get used to.  Because it can be really hard when you want to play well in a certain event and you don’t.”

Nicholas Dunlap knows that battle, too – though he came out on the right side of many of his big goals in 2021. Dunlap set out to win both the U.S. Junior Amateur and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and he checked both boxes.

“It’s unreal to have my name on a trophy like that, on an award like that,” he said. “It never goes away and that feeling is never going to go away.”

Dunlap, of Huntsville, Alabama, spent a brief amount of time early in the year deciding whether he wanted to begin transitioning to more amateur events or continue to compete in junior events. Setting those specific goals helped convince him to keep teeing it up in junior ones. He felt he needed to learn to win at the first level before moving on to the next.

“I didn’t really feel like I accomplished what I wanted to in junior golf,” he said.

Each tournament week was preparation for winning the U.S. Junior, a grueling week of two rounds of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play if you’re going to cart off a trophy, as Dunlap did. Leading up to that event, he won the Dustin Johnson World Junior and the Polo Golf Association Junior Classic.

2021 U.S. Junior
Nicholas Dunlap and the trophy after winning during the final match at the 2021 U.S. Junior at The Country Club of North in Village of Pinehurst, N.C. on Saturday, July 24, 2021. (Chris Keane/USGA)

“Every time you win, it doesn’t matter if it’s the club championship or if it’s your little local tournament or if it’s one of the biggest tournaments in the world,” he said. “It helps your confidence because tournament golf is hard. It’s hard to compete and it’s hard to win. So any time something like that happens, it makes you feel good about yourself and gives you a little bit of confidence.”

It would be the ultimate boost of confidence to have his name on both the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur trophy at once. He’s already checked the first box, so why not check the second in 2022?

“I think it’s something that not many people can say they’ve done, I, fortunately, have the chance to do that.”

Wise words from the nation’s top juniors.

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Nicholas Dunlap, reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion, collects AJGA Rolex Player of the Year honors

At the biggest junior events in 2021, Nicholas Dunlap was always a factor.

At the biggest junior events in 2021, Nicholas Dunlap was always a factor. Perhaps nothing demonstrates that better than the U.S. Junior Amateur trophy Dunlap carted off from the Country Club of North Carolina in July.

Now, Dunlap, who is verbally committed to play for Alabama, has been named the AJGA’s Rolex Player of the Year, which is the organization’s highest honor for a player.

While the U.S. Junior trophy might have scored him the biggest headlines – and also earned him a spot in the 2022 U.S. Open – the rest of Dunlap’s season was equally impressive. Early in the year, he won the Dustin Johnson World Junior and early in the summer, he won the Polo Golf Junior Classic at Liberty National. The latter, like the U.S. Junior, was a match-play event.

In AJGA competition, the high school senior played in 11 events recognized by the Rolex AJGA Rankings and finished outside the top five just twice. Even when Dunlap wasn’t winning, he was in the mix. He tied for second at the Wyndham Invitational, tied for fifth at the Western Junior and was runner-up in both the Boys Junior PGA Championship and Junior Players Championship late in the summer.

Dunlap, No. 1 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings, and the rest of the 2021 Rolex Junior All-America Teams listed below will be honored virtually through a Rolex Junior All-America Awards celebration on Friday, Dec. 3 dubbed “The Greatest Night in Junior Golf.”

First Team

Luke Clanton of Miami Lakes, Florida
Nicholas Dunlap of Huntsville, Alabama
Maxwell Ford of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
Zach Heffernan of Boerne, Texas
J. Holland Humphries of Austin, Texas
Benjamin James of Milford, Connecticut
Jackson Koivun of San Jose, California
Eric Lee of Fullerton, California
Bryan Lee of Fairfax, Virginia
Jacob Sosa of Austin, Texas
Jase Summy of Keller, Texas
Caleb Surratt of Indian Trail, North Carolina

Second Team

Sihao Cong of Irvine, California
John Daly II of Dardanelle, Arkansas
Ethan Gao of Alpharetta, Georgia
Jonathan Griz of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Bryan Kim of Brookeville, Maryland
Bruce Murphy of Johns Creek, Georgia
Anawin Pikulthong of Gilbert, Arizona
Aaron Pounds of The Woodlands, Texas
Nicholas Prieto of Miami, Florida
Mason Snyder of Las Vegas, Nevada
Matthew Troutman of Louisville, Kentucky
Wells Williams of West Point, Mississippi

Honorable Mention

Kyle An of Aliso Viejo, California
Jonas Appel of Encinitas, California
Gavin Aurilia of Phoenix, Arizona
Carson Brewer of Jacksonville, Florida
Ryder Cowan of Edmond, Oklahoma
Matthew Doyle of Madison, Connecticut
Nicholas Gross of Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Will Hartman of Marvin, North Carolina
Scotty Kennon of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Shawn Lalmoni of Orlando, Florida
Carter Loflin of Duluth, Georgia
Kyo Morishita of (Japan) Bradenton, Florida
Will Morlan of Alpharetta, Georgia
Sebastian Moss of Houston, Texas
Chase Nevins of Great Falls, Virginia
Calder Overfelt of Newport Beach, California
Alex Papayoanou of The Woodlands, Texas
Deven Patel of Johns Creek, Georgia
Solomon Petrie of Akron, Ohio
Sihan Sandhu of Pinehurst, North Carolina
William Sides of Tulsa, Oklahoma
Brendan Valdes of Orlando, Florida
Keaton Vo of Austin, Texas
Rylan Wotherspoon of Florence, Kentucky

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From contending at U.S. Women’s Open to top junior honors: Megha Ganne named AJGA Rolex Player of the Year

Every time Ganne teed it up in an American Junior Golf Association event in 2021, she contended. Now she’s the AJGA’s top player.

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Every time Megha Ganne teed it up in an American Junior Golf Association event in 2021, she contended. For those in the know, it came as no surprise that she also contended in one of women’s golf biggest events – the U.S. Women’s Open.

Ganne was hardly an unknown entering the year, having qualified for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals four times and advanced to the semifinals at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur. But she took her game to a new level this season, especially on the junior circuit. She played in five events recognized by the Rolex AJGA Rankings without ever finishing outside the top four and has been named the AJGA’s Rolex Player of the Year. It’s the junior golf association’s highest honor for players.

Ganne finished T3 at the Rolex Tournament of Champions and T3 at the ANNIKA Invitational early in the AJGA season. She won the Scott Robertson Memorial, a long-running junior golf event in Virginia, before making big headlines as the 17-year-old contending at the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club.

Ultimately, Ganne finished T14 that week for low-amateur honors.

The back half of her year was a whirlwind of team events. She represented the U.S. as an alternate on the victorious Curtis Cup team and was a playing member of the Ping Junior Solheim Cup team and Junior Ryder Cup team.

Ganne, who is verbally committed to Stanford, ended the year ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings and No. 22 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Ganne and the rest of the 2021 Rolex Junior All-America Teams listed below will be honored virtually through a Rolex Junior All-America Awards celebration on Friday, Dec. 3 dubbed “The Greatest Night in Junior Golf.”

First Team

Brooke Biermann of Wildwood, Missouri
Gianna Clemente of Warren, Ohio 
Anna Davis of Spring Valley, California
Megha Ganne of Holmdel, New Jersey 
Mackenzie Lee of North Little Rock, Arkansas
Michelle Liu of Vancouver, British Columbia
Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Florida
Bailey Shoemaker of Dade City, Florida
Kendall Todd of Goodyear, Arizona 
Karen Tsuru of Carlsbad, California
Yana Wilson of Henderson, Nevada
Avery Zweig of McKinney, Texas

Second Team

Sara Im of Duluth, Georgia
Xin (Cindy) Kou of (China) Valencia, California
Jaclyn LaHa of Pleasanton, California
Erica Lee of Arcadia, California
Katie Li of Basking Ridge, New Jersey
Gloria Nip of (Hong Kong) Port St Lucie, Florida
Jacqueline Putrino of Lakewood Ranch, Florida
Kiara Romero of San Jose, California
Kaitlyn Schroeder of Jacksonville, Florida
Kelly Xu of Claremont, California
Lucy Yuan of San Diego, California
Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang of (China) Plano, Texas

Honorable Mention

Kynadie Adams of Nashville, Tennessee
Vanessa Borovilos of Toronto, Ontario
Leigh Chien of Irvine, California
Kylee Choi of Murrieta, California
Kylie Chong of Torrance, California
Kary Hollenbaugh of New Albany, Ohio
Thienna Huynh of Lilburn, Georgia
Grace Kilcrease of Springdale, Arkansas
Lauren Kim of Surrey, British Columbia
Sophie Linder of Carthage, Tennessee
Angela (Yilin) Liu of Irvine, California
Bridget Ma of Orlando, Florida
McKenzie Mages of Marietta, Georgia
Ava Merrill of Johns Creek, Georgia
Julia Misemer of Overland Park, Kansan
Catherine Park of Irvine, California
Catherine Rao of Camarillo, California
Brooke Rivers of Brampton, Ontario
Alexia Siehl of Fort Mill, South Carolina
Suzie Tran of Poulsbo, Washington
Lily Zhang of Buffalo, New York
Angela Zhang of Bellevue, Washington
Sophie Zhang-Murphy of Saratoga, California
Alice Ziyi Zhao of (China) Irvine, California

As he approaches 7 feet tall, Tommy Morrison wants to be a giant in the game

The 6-foot-10-inch Morrison has a developing game that could have him towering over the field in the future.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – On the eve of the AJGA’s Junior Players Championship, a reporter asked a cloud of people waiting out a rainstorm under the porte cochere at TPC Sawgrass if any of them had seen Tommy Morrison, the 17-year-old early commit to Texas who had nearly stolen the title a year ago with a Sunday 67.

“Just look up,” one junior’s parent said with a smile. “He’s pretty hard to miss.”

At 6 feet, 10 inches tall, Morrison does indeed stand out from the crowd. From birth – he weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces despite arriving a couple of weeks early – he’s been a big boy.

“From first grade to now I was always the tallest in my class and everyone told me I should go play football,” Morrison said.

He played a little bit of everything until age 12, including basketball, and was good enough to compete on an AAU travel team coached by former Duke star Mark Alarie. But then, in 2017, Morrison went wire-to-wire to win the boys age 12 division at the U.S. Kids World Championship at Pinehurst Resort.

“On the airplane ride home, he said (of golf), ‘I just love this.’ I saw something different in his eyes,” his mom, Alison recalled. “After that, he didn’t want to go to basketball practice. He wanted to practice golf until dark.”

Tommy Morrison, AJGA Class of 2023, has verbally committed to attend University of Texas. Photo by Adam Schupak/Golfweek

Morrison’s grandfather, a college basketball player and an avid golfer, deserves credit for introducing him to the game. (His great-grandfather was a former catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, among other teams, and also influential in teaching him the mental side of sports and how to play at an elite level.) At age 9, Morrison began working with instructor Bernie Najar, the director of golf at Caves Valley. It was Morrison who made the decision to commit his efforts to golf. Why did the game win out over all others?

“I love the feeling of hitting a good shot and spending time on the golf course,” Morrison said. “I love spending time around the green, possibly too much time. It’s what I do.”

Morrison, a junior in high school, chose wisely. He’s gone on to win the 2020 Southern Junior Championship and was selected to the Rolex Junior All-American team last year. This year, he skipped several junior events to try his hand at the next level of amateur competitions. He hasn’t recorded a top-10 finish since March and as a result his Golfweek Junior Ranking has slipped to No. 20, but the long-term benefits of playing against tougher competition may outweigh the short-term setbacks.

Likewise, he’s elevated his instruction team, adding Jamie Mulligan, who is coach to FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay, as a consultant since the beginning of the year. Morrison, who moved to Frisco, Texas, two years ago, has been traveling frequently to Southern California to be under the tutelage of Mulligan at his home club, Virginia Country Club.

“He’s mature beyond his years not only physically but mentally,” Mulligan said. “When you talk to him, he sounds like a 25-year-old man the way he looks at golf and looks at life. He reminds me of a young John Cook or a Paul Goydos or even a Patrick Cantlay.”

Tommy Morrison, far left, during a practice round ahead of the AJGA Ping Invitational at Karsten Creek (Courtesy Alison Morrison).

Mulligan has evaluated a lot of junior golfers in his day and he hasn’t been wrong too many times. He sees Tour-caliber talent.

“His potential is unlimited,” Mulligan said.

So are Morrison’s ambitions. He dreams of someday being World No. 1. But first things first – finding golf shoes that fit.

“He’s got a size 17 foot and Nike only makes up to 16 in golf shoes,” his mom said. “He has this dream of meeting Michael Jordan some day and asking him to create a golf shoe in his size so he can wear the Jump Man logo.”

Even Morrison’s dreams are oversized.

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Junior Ryder Cup: No matches, but a U.S. exhibition for the next generation to remember

For the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team, Wednesday at Whistling Straits was certainly memorable.

Traditionally, the co-ed Junior Ryder Cup teams are a pretty good indicator of which up-and-coming players are going to make the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup teams down the road. Past rosters have included everyone from Lexi Thompson to Justin Thomas.

The early-week matches between the teenage U.S. and European teams were a victim of the pandemic this year, however. The PGA of America selected a 12-player U.S. team but that squad only played an exhibition at Whistling Straits early week given that the European team could not travel because of ongoing issues related to COVID-19.

For those American players, however, Wednesday at Whistling Straits was certainly still memorable.

In a bit of a twist, the team was divided into three groups of four, and each group was joined by a sports icon appropriate for the Wisconsin-specific names the three squads adopted.

Here’s how they split up:

Team name Celebrity Girls Boys
Bucks Mike Budenholzer (Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach) Anna Davis, Julia Misemer Caleb Surratt, Bryan Lee
Badgers Mark Tauscher (former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman) Sophie Linder, Alexa Pano Ben James, Wells Williams
Packers Mark Murphy (Packers president and CEO) Avery Zweig, Megha Ganne Luke Clanton, Nicholas Dunlap

All three teams played 11 holes (Nos. 1-9 and No. 18) with the two best scores on each hole counting as the team score. The matches were paid plenty of attention, with players going off the first tee to the backdrop of a group of fans known as the “American Marshals” (the ones dressed in viking horns and red, white and blue gear) singing and cheering.

Junior Ryder Cup
The Junior Ryder Cup was reduced to a one-day exhibition at Whistling Straits this year. (Golfweek photo/Adam Schupak)

Interestingly, for their victory, the Packers team received – in keeping with the local theme – a wheel of Wisconsin cheese.

“These kids are amazing,” said Tauscher, who lumped in with the Badgers team. “I just hope not to embarrass anyone, and if I can contribute on one or two holes, I’ll be happy.”

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Nick Dunlap, Megha Ganne highlight 12-player U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team

The 12-player U.S. team will play an exhibition match at Whistling Straits during the early part of Ryder Cup week.

While they won’t get to square off against their European counterparts as planned, 12 junior golfers have been named to the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team, a co-ed squad of up-and-coming golfers that has included some big-name alumni through the years, from Lexi Thompson to Justin Thomas.

This year’s squad of 12 – six boys and six girls – will travel to Whistling Straits’ Straits Course later this month to compete in an exhibition match at Whistling Straits on Wednesday, Sept. 22. They will also participate in the Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony and attend the first day of competition. The junior matches against Europe were canceled due to ongoing travel issues for the European Junior Ryder Cup team.

The U.S. team is as follows:

Boys

  • Luke Clanton, 17, Miami Lakes, Florida
  • Nick Dunlap, 17, Huntsville, Alabama
  • Ben James, 18, Milford, Connecticut
  • Bryan Lee, 17, Fairfax, Virginia
  • Caleb Surratt, 17, Indian Trail, North Carolina
  • Wells Williams, 17, West Point, Mississippi

Girls

  • Anna Davis, 15, Spring Valley, California
  • Megha Ganne, 17, Holmdel, New Jersey
  • Sophie Linder, 17, Carthage, Tennessee
  • Julia Misemer, 17, Overland Park, Kansas
  • Alexa Pano, 17, Lake Worth, Florida
  • Avery Zweig, 14, McKinney, Texas

To be eligible for the team, players must be U.S. citizens and part of the 2022 high school graduating class or younger. The U.S. roster includes both the Junior PGA champion in Surratt and the Girls Junior PGA champion, Davis. U.S. Junior champion Nick Dunlap will also represent the U.S.

James will play fresh off last week’s victory at the Junior Players Championship and Ganne, the low amateur at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, arrives after a hectic few weeks that included a trip to the Curtis Cup in Wales as a U.S. team alternate and a turn on the U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team. Three other players were also members of the latter team: Zweig, Pano and Davis.

Only Pano returns from the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team that competed in Paris in 2018.

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First Tee Pittsburgh opens Arnold Palmer Learning Center on what would have been his 92nd birthday

It’s yet another way Arnold Palmer legacy will live on and in the process, give back to the game of golf.

It’s yet another way Arnold Palmer legacy will live on and in the process, give back to the game of golf.

On Friday, on what would’ve been Palmer’s 92nd birthday, more than 150 people took part in a dedication of the Arnold Palmer Learning Center in Pittsburgh. Palmer was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, about an hour east of Pittsburgh.

“As we celebrate our 20th anniversary in Pittsburgh, our mission continues to focus on building game changers out of today’s young men and women by helping them develop life skills and abilities that build character, instill core values and promote healthy choices,” said First Tee Pittsburgh president and CEO said. “The Arnold Palmer Learning Center is the crown jewel of this effort and will help us augment our work with more than 5,000 kids every year.”

Arnold Palmer Learning Center
First Tee Pittsburgh opened the Arnold Palmer Learning Center on Sept. 10, 2021, on what would have been Palmer’s 92nd birthday. Photo by First Tee Pittsburgh

The dedication took place at  Schenley Park at the Bob O’Connor Golf Course. On Saturday, a Tee It Forward family event offering kids a chance to swing their clubs in a long-drive contest, a closest-to-the-pin contest, a chipping clinic and a putting contest. Raffles to win a trip to Pebble Beach was also part of the attraction.

The 14,000-square foot Arnold Palmer Learning Center was funded by private and public donations, which included support from the Arnold and Winnie Palmer Foundation.

Amenities include golf stimulators, indoor training classrooms and accommodations for corporate and community events.

College golf: 2021-22 women’s newcomers to watch this season

Meet the newcomers to college golf that fans may want to keep an eye on this season.

The headcovers are off and the balls are on the tee as college golf officially returns this month.

As colleges and universities across the country are welcoming their student-athletes back to campus, most of the nation’s attention will be fixated on the preseason All-Americans and ANNIKA Award Watch List, but there are more than a few new faces in the college game that will be contributing immediately for their teams.

Highlighted by a two-time USGA champion and the reigning R&A Girls Amateur champion, these are the newcomers to college golf that fans may want to keep an eye on this season.

College golf: Women’s preseason top 30 | Top men’s newcomers

Benjamin James claims Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass

Benjamin James had a word for it. “Magic,” he said after winning the 2021 Junior Players Championship.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Benjamin James had a word for it.

“Magic,” said the winner of the 2021 Junior Players Championship on Sunday, after a closing 68 at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course gave him a four-shot victory over U.S. Junior Amateur champion Nicholas Dunlap, at 8-under-par 208.

James, a high school senior from Milford, Connecticut, who is headed for the University of Virginia next year, pulled away from a three-way battle with Dunlap (74) and Bryan Lee of Fairfax, Virginia, (71) at the turn with a four-hole stretch of three birdies and an eagle between Nos. 9 and 12.

Dunlap, the 36-hole leader, birdied No 18 to break from a three-way tie at 3-under with Lee and Jonathan Griz of Hilton Head, South Carolina, (71).

James is ranked sixth in both the American Junior Golf Association Polo Rankings and the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. He’s won twice this year, both tournaments coming back-to-back in May.

But he finished second in the Junior PGA and the Polo Junior Classic at Liberty National and was getting restless.

“I was tired of coming in second,” he said. “I really wanted this so bad. It means a lot.”

James arrived two days before the first round and spent hours on the TPC Sawgrass range trying to find an element to his game that had been missing in two previous pedestrian starts in the Junior Players: drive the ball with a fade and draw on command.

“It was one event where I couldn’t get off the tee,” James said. “I was able to move the ball both ways with my tee shot this time and putted a lot better.”

James bided his time with rounds of 69 and 71. He was even-par through eight holes on Sunday and stood on the ninth tee two shots behind Dunlap.

James then needed only 13 strokes to complete the next four holes.

It began with a two-putt for birdie at the par-5 ninth hole that James within a shot of Dunlap and Lee at 4-under. James then dropped a 6-foot birdie putt at No. 10 to make it a three-way tie.

He smacked a 6-iron from 190 yards out to 12 feet at the par-5 11th to set up an easy two-putt for birdie to take the lead when Lee bogeyed and Dunlap parred.

James then delivered the shot of the day: with the tee at the par-4 12th hole moved up to 275 yards, James drove the green with a 3-wood, with the ball nestling 4 feet from hole. He made the putt to get to 8-under.

“I had been pulling my 3-wood this week, so I just aimed further right,” he said. “It turned out good.”

James had only one blip the rest of a hot, breezy day when he had his first three-putt of the tournament at No. 14, missing an 18-incher for par.

Dunlap parred and was only one back.

James then came through with the clincher, a 9-iron from 145 yards out at No. 15, followed by a 15-foot birdie putt. He was so excited that he hit the brake on his pull cart too hard, breaking it from the cable attaching it to the wheels.

An AJGA official took the cart away and James had to carry his bag the last three holes.

He did what every Players Championship winner has tried to do with a big lead: play the last three holes of the Stadium Course with extreme care. James missed the fairway right at No. 16, pulled his second shot onto a bank near the green to leave himself with a downhill lie, but chipped safely on and two-putted for par.

He found dry land at the Island Green and two-putted from 45 feet, then hit the 18th fairway, laid up to the front fringe, chipped to 6 feet and made the par putt.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “I’ve been playing well but haven’t been getting it done. To do it now means the world to me.”