AJGA Hilton Head Junior All-Star event gets younger

July 20, 2010 

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Austin Morrison of Charlotte hits from the 18th green during Monday’s practice round for the AJGA Hilton Head Junior All-Star tournament at the Berkeley Hall South Course in Bluffton.

SARAH WELLIVER

From the Heritage PGA Tour event to the Players Amateur to the Junior Heritage, Beaufort County draws the top golfers in the country to premier tournaments at almost every level.

The organizers of the area's long-standing American Junior Golf Association event want to hook them even younger.

For the first time, this year's AJGA Hilton Head Junior All-Star event will feature players in the 12-15 age group when the three-day tournament gets under way today on the South Course at Berkeley Hall Club.

"We wanted to try to cultivate a younger age group and identify them with Hilton Head and hopefully they'll continue to come here for many years," tournament chairman Terry Finger said.

The tournament, which is part of the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy Junior All-Star Series, begins today and runs through Thursday, with play beginning at 7:30 a.m. each day.

Finger said another factor in switching from the 16-18 age division to the younger group was a desire to draw a stronger field. In past years, the local event has conflicted with other events for the same age group, resulting in diluted fields.

He believes the move worked in that regard.

Among the 60 players in the boys field are two players seeking their second victories of the summer. Timothy Colanta of Monroe Township, N.J., claimed his first AJGA title with a six-shot win last week at the Aldila Junior All-Star in Santa Clarita, Calif. Brandon Pierce of Covington, La., earned his first AJGA title a week earlier, shooting 8-under-par 64 in the final round of the Sean O'Hair Junior All-Star Championship in Lubbock, Texas, to win by three shots.

"It really boosted me forward after that win. It showed me that I can go out there and put up a low score," Pierce said. "It felt really good. I've won a lot of other smaller tournaments, but it's my first national win."

Nate Strigenz of Fond du Lac, Wis., also comes in playing well, having shot 4-under-par 68 to win medalist honors in the AJGA National Qualifier held at Berkeley Hall on Sunday.

What the girls field lacks in quantity -- there are only 18 players entered -- it makes up for in quality. Rachel Dai of Suwanee, Ga., shot even par over three rounds to win the Evitt Foundation RTC Junior All-Star in Ringgold, Ga., last month.

Lauren Gros of Gainesville, Fla., won medalist honors in Sunday's national qualifier with a 73, and she is coming off a sixth-place showing at the Nebraska Junior at Quarry Oaks earlier this month.

Michaela Owen of Alpharetta, Ga., is close to breaking through with two top-five finishes this summer, and Alexandra White of Honolulu, Hawaii, had four top-10 finishes in AJGA events in 2009, but she is looking for her first this season.

What: AJGA Hilton Head Junior All-Star

When: Today through Thursday

Where: Berkeley Hall Club, South Course

Notes: A field of 60 boys and 18 girls will compete in the 54-hole event, which is part of the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy Junior All-Star Series. Tee times run from 7:30 a.m. to 9:18 a.m. each day off the first and 10th tees. Spectators are welcome.

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