A stronger contingent of players and another strong international showing are expected for the second annual Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship at TPC Myrtle Beach, which is changing weekends for its second playing.
The 54-hole tournament is being held Feb. 24-26, with a practice round, welcome dinner at Wicked Tuna and player meeting on Feb. 23.
A field of 60 boys and 30 girls ages 13-18 will likely include players from China, Sweden, India, Portugal, Mexico and Canada, as well as several of the top juniors from the Southeast, according to Jeff Monday, tournament director for Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday.
“We expect a more competitive field than [this] year. We’re seeing more of the top 100 players in the country registering and we expect more of them to come in,” Monday said. “We expect many of the top 10 and top 20 players from the Carolinas, and we’re seeing outreach in places like Tennessee, Georgia and Ohio.”
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The Golf Holiday marketing cooperative operates the event in partnership with TPC owner/operator Founders Group International and the Dustin Johnson Golf School, which is located at the course.
Monday expects the tournament to grow in part through word of mouth after players in the initial event enjoyed lavish player gifts, lockers, live scoring on the course and a plethora of assisting volunteers.
Organizers aren’t expecting Johnson to make an appearance at his namesake junior event. The tournament is held on the same weekend as the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic at PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., which Johnson has played in just three times in 2008, ’13 and ’15 without success with a pair of missed cuts and a tie for 46th, but the event is also near Johnson’s home.
It falls the week between the end of the California swing and a new World Golf Championships event in Mexico.
“He’ll find ways to make it extremely special for the players whether he’s here or not,” Monday said.
He’ll find ways to make it extremely special for the players whether he’s here or not.
Tournament director Jeff Monday on Dustin Johnson
The tournament costs $250 and is being played a week later next year. This year it was played Saturday through Monday and finished on Presidents Day, and was on the same weekend at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in California, where Johnson finished fourth.
Organizers believe moving the tournament at least two weeks from the Sea Pines Heritage Junior in Hilton Head Island (it will be three weeks later in 2017) and two weeks later than the AJGA’s big CB & I Boys Championship outside Houston may allow for a stronger field.
This year’s DJ Junior endured cold, rain and frost delays.
“Presidents Day doesn’t hit everybody as being a day off. With foreign players it didn’t make a difference,” Monday said. “So a Friday to Sunday event seemed a little better than a Saturday to Monday event. From a weather standpoint you never know what moving a tournament a week will do, but getting farther away from January should help out.”
“We’re starting with a week change and we’ll reevaluate and see if we need to do something different in the future.”
Area players who have been admitted to the field include College of Charleston commitment Patrick Golden of Murrells Inlet, who recently finished ninth in the 20th Players Championship in Hartsville, Matthew Griego of North Myrtle Beach and Jackson Cole of Pawleys Island. Smith Knaffle of Murrells Inlet intends to enter the girls division.
An 18-hole qualifier at Myrtle Beach National’s West Course will be open to juniors from all areas this year by popular demand rather than limited to players from Horry, Georgetown and Brunswick counties, as it was this year. It will be held Feb. 11, the entry fee is $40 and the entry deadline is Feb. 7. Interested players can call 800-833-8798 ext. 253 or visit the tournament website www.worldjuniorgolfchampionship.com. The number of players advancing from the qualifier will be determined later.
Winning the inaugural DJ World Junior were East Carolina commitment Blake Taylor of Atkinson, N.C., and Louisville commitment Delaney Shah of North Potomac, Md., who defeated a girl from China by two strokes. That tournament featured players from 12 states and eight countries including Japan, the Philippines, Sweden, England, Scotland and Canada.
Tilghman Jr. on move
A change of venue for the Charles Tilghman Carolinas PGA Junior Championship for the first time in the tournament’s 27-year history did nothing to slow the registration onslaught.
As usual, the tournament sold out within a matter of minutes after registration began on Sept. 29.
The tournament is being held Saturday and Sunday and has been moved to the Members Club at Grande Dunes for one year from its only home to date, the Surf Golf and Beach Club.
“We’re fortunate they were able to accommodate us and keep it in Myrtle Beach and keep the whole idea of the event, being a celebration of Mr. Tilghman and in his honor,” said CPGA tournament official Chris Gaines.
Surf Club general manager Tom Prough said course officials chose to alert the CPGA it wouldn’t host the tournament after deciding to change its greens to Champion Bermudagrass late this summer.
“When we had the problems with the greens this summer we didn’t want to take a chance,” Prough said. “… Putting in the Champion we were concerned about that time of year having 100 kids walk around, but the course is in great shape and we’ll be back doing it next year.”
The tournament has a field of 96 players and 200 had signed up on the first day of registration.
The entry fee is $205 after being $185 last year, and the Puma-sponsored tee gift for each player includes Puma Ignite golf shoes, a hat, socks, towel and duffel bag containing the PGA crest.
Knaffle, who also won the 2016 Carolinas PGA Junior Championship, is returning to defend her girls title. Last year’s boys champion, Christian Salzer of Sumter, is playing at N.C. State.
Among exempt players who did not have to be among the first 96 to register include the sons, daughters or grandchildren of PGA of America professionals – of which there are 17 players this year – the top five in each division from the 2015 Tilghman, and the top five players in the Carolinas Golf Association’s rankings through mid-September. No. 2 Kathleen Sumner of Daniel Island and No. 3 Knaffle are entered, as is reigning George Holliday Memorial Junior winner Gracyn Burgess of Lexington.
Several more players from the Grand Strand are entered, including Golden, Cole and Kevin Burris of Conway.
The top three players in each age and gender division will receive pewter plates, and overall winners receive crystal vases.
Planning for 2017
Conway native Kristy McPherson did not make the cut to the final round of the five-round LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament Finals that concluded Sunday at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The top 20 earned full status on the 2017 LPGA Tour, and players inside the top 45 earned conditional status. The top 70 made the cut, which McPherson missed by two shots with a 4-over 292 with rounds of 73, 73, 72 and 74. A score of 4 under made the top 20.
“I played well enough to get it done, I just couldn’t do the small things right,” McPherson said. “It’s crazy that 1 over each day and you miss the cut and 1 under each day and you have a full card. Every shot counts, that’s for sure.”
She was exempt into the finals based on her lifetime LPGA earnings of more than $2.17 million, and that same status will qualify her for at least a handful of LPGA tournaments in 2017.
The nine-year LPGA veteran who played on the feeder Symetra Tour this year plans to compete in LPGA events when she can and hopes to make an early cut or two so her status will improve with one of the tour’s scheduled status reshuffles. She also plans to enter some early-season Monday qualifiers in an attempt to get into more events, but doesn’t plan to play in Symetra Tour events in 2017.
“I need a few days to process it all and see how the offseason goes,” McPherson said. “I’ve got to get back to being more efficient and not throwing away shots if I’m going to keep doing this for a living.”
S.C.’s best juniors
Trent Phillips narrowly beat out fellow Inman resident Jacob Bridgeman to capture his second straight South Carolina Junior Golf Association Jay Haas Boys Player of the Year Award for 2016, while Gracyn Burgess of Lexington clipped Kathleen Sumner of Daniel Island earned the SCJGA Beth Daniel Girls Player of the Year honor.
The awards are based on the Heritage Classic Foundation Rankings, which factor finishes in more than 200 tournaments over 12 months across South Carolina and nationwide.
Burgess won the Carolinas Golf Association Twin States and finished runner up in both the Sea Pines Junior Heritage and the WSCGA Junior Girls. She won six high school tournaments this fall and finished runner-up in the Class 5A state championship.
She passed Sumner to clinch the points title with a win Thanksgiving weekend in the George Holliday Memorial Junior Championship at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club. Burgess will be honored by Daniel at the Country Club of Charleston on Dec. 21.
Phillips won the SCGA Junior, Palmetto Amateur, Joe Cheves, Bobby Chapman Junior Invitational, Cheraw Fall Challenge and Players Championship in Hartsville, and will be honored by Haas at Thornblade Club on Dec. 15.
Bridgeman seemed to win every event that Trent did not with titles in the Class 3A high school state, Jimmy Self, CGA Junior, Grant Bennett Florence Invitational, Beth Daniel Junior Azalea and Orange Jacket, and the two teamed up to take the Tradition Four-Ball.
The Cruds featured
A feature profile by Matt Ginella on a group from Durham, N.C., that made its 100th golf trip to Myrtle Beach in October is expected to air on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive show Tuesday morning.
Ginella interviewed a few of the more than 20 members of the group self-titled “The Cruds” at Barefoot Resort, and he and a film crew spent several hours over a couple days in the area with the group.
The Cruds have made two trips per year to Myrtle Beach every year since 1967.