Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Jr. World Golf Championships: A Global Event

By Luke Epp (SMBA '11)

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Jr. World Golf Championships held here in beautiful San Diego. The event, which started in 1968, is played over eight different local golf courses, one of which is Torrey Pines. The tournament is one of the most prestigious in junior golf and is truly a global event. This year’s field included over 1,100 participants who represented over 50 different countries and close to all 50 U.S. States. The leaderboard looked more like a UN meeting than a golf event. Just to give you an example the Top 10 in the girls 15-17 division went: Mexico, Hawaii, CA, Hawaii, Canada, Philippines, Argentina, Japan, Hawaii, Philippines, Singapore. The boys 15-17 division had the same international feel as well, with 5 different countries represented in the Top 10.

The Jr. World’s are a breeding ground for future talent on the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour. The likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, David Toms, Corey Pavin, Lorena Ochoa, Amy Alcott, and Jennifer Rosales have all won titles at the Jr. World’s. Where there is young talent there will be college coaches lurking close behind. I hope these coaches brushed up on their geography before coming!

A former college teammate of mine is now the assistant women’s coach for Northwestern University, so I tagged along with her as she scouted for her 2011 class and beyond. It was a great experience to see what type of attributes and skills coaches look for in young players. It was also interesting to hear how she “brands” her school in hopes of attracting the best student-athletes. I couldn’t believe the skill level of these young players. The girl who won the 15-17 age division, Gabriela Lopez of Mexico, shot 14 under par over 4 rounds! I think Mexico might have found its next Lorena Ochoa.

Speaking of young talent, my friend Norman Xiong, tied for 1st place in the boys 11-12 age division this year (he also won his age division last year). Norman has schooled me numerous times down at the Pro Kids’ course. It is great to see him doing so well. Coaches…you might want to keep an eye on him for your 2017 class.

Overall, it was a great experience for me to: 1) witness just how global the game of golf is becoming 2) observe how to run a successful junior golf event and 3) get a behind the scenes glimpse into college recruiting.

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