This year's PING Invitational featured one of junior golf's most competitive fields. Of the 72 players vying for the title at Karsten Creek Golf Club, 23 were Rolex Junior All-Americans, 19 participated in the 2009 Canon Cup, and in both the Boys and Girls Divisions, 13 of the top 15 players in the Polo Golf Rankings vied for the title.
Karsten Creek, recognized as one of the toughest layouts in golf, was set up to prove challenging for the junior golfers this week. Known for his narrow fairways, thick rough and fast greens Karsten Creek lived up to its reputation.
Emiliano Grillo, a student at the IMG Academy Leadbetter golf program Academy, held at least a share of the lead since his opening day 69. After a second-round 70, Emiliano had established a four-shot lead going into the final round. Despite a 76 in the final round at Karsten Creek G.C, Emiliano managed to hold by on three shots for his first AJGA victory.
Emiliano, who is currently ranked No. 6 in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings, played steady golf and credited an improved putting technique for his consistency over the three rounds.
Emiliano's other big victory of the summer came in July at the Junior World Championships. He also competed at the U.S. Junior Am where he was knocked out in the Round of 32.
Emiliano will next take his game to the AJGA Polo Golf Junior Classic in November.
Fellow Leadbetter golfer, Cheng-Tsung Pan, finished strong on the last day of play after shooting an even par 72 which moved him into the Top 10.
In the girls side of competition, Leadbetter Golfer and 2008 Rolex Junior Player of the Year, Victoria Tanco, and Califorian, Rachel Morris found themselves battling it out to the end. It took an extra hole and a 25-footer for birdie, but Rachel managed to unseat Victoria who was trying to win back-to-back titles.
Victoria entered the final round with a one-shot lead. After the first nine holes, Rachel made up a shot and they entered the back 9 even. Rachel took a two shot lead after Victoria bogeyed holes 10 and 12. Victoria kept patient and got to 1-down with 3 holes to play and then pulled back to even with Rachel on hole 17. The girls both birdied the 18th hole after Rachel made a 10-footer and Victoria had to make a 4 foot birdie putt to force a playoff.
Also playing from the academy was Tanaporn âMintâ Kongkiatkrai who shot rounds of 76-79-76 and finished in 11th place and Doris Chen finished 21st with rounds of 80-79-78.
For complete coverage of the AJGA PING Invitational check out www.ajga.org