The conditions are not always ideal, both on the course and in life. Golf is often compared to life because sometimes you hit a great shot and don’t result you wanted. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control and you must continue grinding it out in poor conditions. That is what family is for — they serve as someone to lean on in dire times. Every player in the field this week is a champion, and they are accompanied by a world-class family and support system. You all are why we do what we do and we cannot thank you enough for your dedication to the game.
The second round of the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship saw great shots, weather delays and career rounds. Eleven of the thirteen age groups were able to finish on Friday, while the two twelve-year-old age groups finished Saturday morning. The size of the field, number of locations and unpredictability of the weather made for an adventurous round two; but it couldn’t stop these young golfers from having fun and carding low scores.
Ten of the age groups have an outright leader, while Girls 8, Girls 9 and Boys 12 possess a two-way tie for first.
Six-year-old Yuuma Nemoto continued his impressive play on Friday as he followed up his opening round of 32 with a 30 at Midland Country Club. Nemoto birdied six of his nine holes and now has a six-shot lead over Ajalawich Anantasethakul.
Jessy Huebner built upon his one-shot lead after round one by carding a 32 in round two. The six-time Regional Championship winner carded an eye-popping 57 at the Jekyll Island Cup in March, and will look to retain his five-stroke lead in the age group after finishing in fifth at the 2015 World Championship.
Tristan Wieland has a one-shot lead over Tyler Watts and 2015 World Champion Philip Dunham heading into the final round. Wieland recorded a consistent even par on Friday, while Dunham and Watts did their best to close the gap with scores under par. Their final round pairing at 2:24 is one to follow closely on Saturday. This is nothing new for Wieland and Dunham as the two were paired together in the final round last year with Dunham edging Wieland by two strokes.
While Ratchanon Chantananawut has a three-shot lead in the Boys 9 age group, he is being chased by three young players who currently sit at five-under-par. Chantananawut, who prefers to go by “T.K.” won both the 2014 and 2015 World Championship. Shawn Coultoff, Samuel Duran and Patmon Malcom will all look to prevent the three-peat.
While we can’t give the champion’s trophy to Sihan Sandhu quite yet, the Boys 10 age group has all but been decided after he one-upped his 63 in round one with a 62 on Friday. Sandhu finished in 3rd, 2nd and 3rd in his past three World Championship appearances, and is clearly a young man on a mission this week. He currently possesses a twelve-shot lead heading into the final round.
Shubham Jaglan is another player who has distanced himself from the rest of the field in his respective age group. Jaglan, who won the 2015 European Championship, carded an impressive 63 of his own in round two and now owns an eight-stroke lead over before teeing it up on Saturday.
Ben Brogdon of Little Rock, AR closed the gap in the Boys 12 age group on day two. Brogdon shot 67 in his second round which included three birdies on Saturday morning during the restart. He is now tied with Jeevan Sihota heading into Saturday afternoon.
It’s anyone’s match in the Girls 7 & Under age group. Asterisk Talley leads at -2 after posting back-to-back 35’s, but there are many players within striking distance. Alexis Lamadrid is currently one-shot off the lead while five others are three shots or better.
2o15 World Champion, Gianna Clemente is now tied with Isabella Dovhey at six-under-par. Dovhey was able to make up her one shot deficit in round one by posting a bogey-free 32 in round two.
Another 2015 World Champion is now tied in her age group — Chloe Kovelesky posted a 36 in round two while Megan Meng fired a 35 to tie her in Girls 9 heading into the final round.
Vanessa Borovilos added to her round one lead by carding another under par round on day two. The ten-year-old backed up her solid 71 with an even better 70 on Friday. She teed off on the 18th of Seven Lakes at even par, and was able to keep the putter in the bag after holing out for eagle.
Another 67 was on the card for USKG veteran Alexa Pano in round two. However, she was not the only eleven-year-old girl to post a 67 on Friday. Bailey Shoemaker was able to match Pano’s score with the help of four straight birdies on holes three through six at Southern Pines Golf Club.
We have a new leader in Girls 12 after they were finally able to finish their second round on Saturday morning. Anushka Borkar of India posted the low round for the age group — three-under-par. She is -1 for the tournament and has a three-shot lead heading into round three.
The 2016 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship marks the 11th anniversary in Pinehurst and the 17th anniversary of the tournament.
Yesterday, 1,552 junior golfers began their three-day match against their assigned courses. Ten Pinehurst area golf courses will play host to thirteen age groups again over the next two days. For some, the goal is World Champion; others, a top five, ten or twenty finish. Regardless of your individual goal, we hope that you follow the two rules of the week. Rules #2 — play your best golf. But more importantly, Rule #1 — HAVE FUN!
Road to Pinehurst
The U.S. Kids Golf staff is proud to welcome players and their families from over 40 states and 50 countries. One young boy traveled farther than anyone else in the field — 11,520 miles from Perth, Australia. His name is Hunter Woodley-Page, he is seven-years-old and playing at Mid Pines. We are happy to have him and every other young golfer who has made the pilgrimage to the Cradle of American Golf — Pinehurst.
While the World Championship is a journey for some, for others, it is a mere drive down the street, beneath the whispering pines. Three players in the field have the luxury of returning to their home in Pinehurst after each day on the course. Sebastian Balbin (Boys 7), Jackson Bode (Boys 12) and Jackson Van Paris (Boys 12).
The low round for boys playing nine holes came from six-year-old Yuuma Nemoto. The Japanese native played in his first World Championship last year at the age of five, and never recorded a round lower than 40, finishing in 23rd. This year, he has a one shot lead after carding a 32 at Midland Country Club.
Sihan Sandhu posted the lowest score of the tournament in round one with a nine-under-par, 63. Sandhu is a thirteen-time Regional Championship winner and two-time European Championship winner. His 63 consisted of six birdies, two eagles and a bogey. He now has a two shot lead heading into round two.
2015 World Champion Gianna Clemente continued her impressive play this week with a 33 at Longleaf Golf & Family Club. The eight-year-old from Warren, OH shot six-under in Pinehurst last year, has won the last four Regional Championships she has played and has not posted a tournament round over par since September of last year.
Alexa Pano is quickly making a name for herself in the golf world. Pano burst onto the scene back in 2012 when she co-starred in The Short Game — an independent documentary about the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship. Pano is a four-time World Champion and has won all 22 Regional Championships she’s played. She won the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt, played in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Open and was the youngest player to compete in an LPGA Japan Tour event. The eleven-year-old now owns the largest lead of any age group (five strokes) after posting a 67 in her first round at Southern Pines. The future is bright for this young girl.
Not pictured: Pongsapak Laopakdee – First Round – Mid South
Van Horn Cup Projections
All six of the 2016 Teen World Champions were first-time winners!
Due to inclement weather, Boys 13 was the only age group not to finish the tournament. The boys were forced to count only the front nine of their final round when the greens became unplayable. Mateo Fuenmayor was crowned champion after firing a 34 on the front nine in his final round. Fuenmayor’s last appearance was in 2014 when he finished tied for 59th in the Boys 11 age group of the World Championship. He’s come a long way since then as he finished the tournament at -2.
Jack Heath continued his dominance of Boys 14 on Saturday, carding a 71 en route to a three stroke lead in the age group. Heath recorded five birdies on the day on the challenging Pinehurst No. 9. The USKG veteran won his first event since the 2013 Jekyll Island Cup, and cemented his name in history as a world champion.
AJ Beechler epitomizes the term “USKG Veteran.” Beechler is the only player out of the six Champions to win both the World Championship and the Teen World Championship. He won the 2011 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship at the age of 11 after posting rounds of 69, 68 and 69. AJ also won the European Championship in 2008 after carding rounds of 35, 36 and 33. With rounds of 69 and 70 at Pinehurst No. 4 and 74 at Pinehurst No. 2, Beechler has now conquered the triple crown of U.S. Kids Golf major championship events.
Panama native, Ana Raquel Sanson Leon followed up on her strong round of 70 in round two with a 73 in her final round at Mid Pines. The thirteen-year-old had two birdies on Saturday, leading her to a five shot victory. Prior to 2016, Sanson Leon’s best finish in Pinehurst came back in 2011 at the age of eight when she finished just outside the top five. Now, she’s a world champion.
Chloe Schiavone reclaimed her lead in her final when she shot the low round of the day — 74. The Jacksonville native carded two birdies and finished the tournament with a commanding five stroke lead. Like the rest of this year’s champions, Schiavone was crowned a world champion for the first time and showed a drastic improvement from her previous experiences.
Ling-Jie Chen refused to share her lead throughout the three days of the Championship. Chen stole the show at the Awards Ceremony when she spoke from the heart in her champion’s speech. The sixteen-year-old posted a 76 on Pinehurst No. 6 to win her age group by four strokes.
Team USA won the Teen Van Horn Cup 5.5 — 3.5!
Day two of the 2016 Teen World Championship is in the books. The scores in the second round were noticeably lower as the players seemed much more acclimated to their respective courses. The change in scores brought a change in leaders in four of the six age groups.
One of the participants that refused to relinquish his lead was Jose Cristobal Islas. Islas enjoyed five birdies in an up and down effort for an even par 72. After posting a modest 74 in round one, Brendan Valdes shot the lowest round of the tournament for the age group to gain sole possession of second place. He followed up his 37 on the front nine with a bogey-free effort on the back, accompanied by birdies on 11, 13 and a clutch eagle on 17. His three-under 69 bumped him up to within one stroke of the leader, Islas.
Jack Heath began playing in U.S. Kids Golf Local Tour events and World Championship Qualifiers at the age of five. Today, at the age of 14, Heath is leading the pack at Pinehurst No. 9 after posting a tournament-low, 67 in round two. Heath carded four birdies on the day and tacked on an eagle on the 530 yard par 5. He wasn’t the only one to accomplish this feat on the lengthy par 5 — Clay Stirsman and Jackson Skeen also eagled 15.
Joe Bultman tied the low round of the tournament with a 67 of his own at Pinehurst No. 4. Bultman played in the last two Teen World Championships and his previous low round was a 74 back in 2014 where he recorded an ace in his final round on the 16th hole at Pinehurst No. 6. This year he is tied with AJ Beechler who has the advantage of being a Pinehurst member and resident. As is tradition, the final round of the Boys 15-18 is cut between an A and B flight. The B flight takes another trip down Pinehurst No.4, while the A matches up with the storied Pinehurst No. 2.
There is a new leader in the Girls 13 division, and it is well deserved — Ana Raquel Sanson Leon followed up her 80 in the first round with a 2-under 70 in round two. The two-time Regional Champion and five-time World Championship participant posted the only round under par for the age group, and now holds a three-shot lead heading into the final round.
Madeleine Laux‘s 75 in round two was good enough to tie day one leader, Chloe Schiavone at +5 for the tournament. Both Laux and Schiavone failed to break 80 in the 2015 Teen World Championship; what a difference a year can make. These two young girls from opposite sides of the U.S. are sure to push each other with every shot in their final round at Mid Pines.
Ling-Jie Chen (Girls 15-18) remains atop the leaderboard after day two, but has seen her lead slightly diminish after strong play from the rest of the field. A consistent round from Valentina Espinosa (77) and a solid effort from Maria Paula Ferrer (72) has them tied at nine over — two shots off the leader, Chen. The top seven spots in Girls 15-18 are all occupied by International players, making them heavy favorites to take their age group in the Teen Van Horn Cup.
The Teen Van Horn Cup will be played Sunday, July 31 at 7:30 a.m. on Pinehurst No. 2.
The 2016 U.S. Kids Golf Teen World Championship showcases over 600 players from more than 40 nations – including countries as diverse as Indonesia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Now in its 11th year, the Teen World Championship serves as an aspirational goal for teenage golfers across the world.
Three United States players and three International players currently occupy the top spots on the leaderboard after the first round of the Teen World Championship.
One participant in each boys age group emerged with a one-stroke lead or better, while a handful of challengers have positioned themselves nicely for the upcoming rounds.
After finishing 7th in the Boys 12 age group in the 2015 World Championship, Jose Cristobal Islas (Boys 13) now possesses a two-stroke advantage in his first year of the Teen World Championship. Islas traveled from Mexico for the eighth-consecutive year and already has two top 5 finishes to his name. He now has his sights set on the first place trophy after posting a 2-under, 70 in round one.
Clay Stirsman (Boys 14) leads the pack at Pinehurst No. 9 after posting a 3-under, 69 in round one. Stirsman, who resides in the small town of Carmel, Indiana, has traveled to Pinehurst since 2011. His first round score was the lowest in his World Championship career. He leads the age group by one stroke over Georgian Brock Hoover.
Behind the strength of five birdies and only one bogey, Garrett Defisser (Boys 15-18) carded the lowest round of the young tournament with a 4-under, 68. Defisser’s strong effort in the first round gave him a one shot lead over Pinehurst native, AJ Beechler. Defisser began playing on the U.S. Kids Golf Phoenix Local Tour when he was only five-years-old, and quickly rose through the rankings. This year marks Garrett’s 10th trip to Pinehurst since the age of five, and he will look to capitalize on an impressive first round score.
Comparable to the boys, one girl in each age group beat out the rest of the field to gain sole possession of the top spot on the leaderboard.
The four-stroke lead held by Juliana Camargo (Girls 13) is the largest among all six age groups. The Colombian native posted a 75 in her first round at Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club. Camargo, played in the previous four World Championships, and took home the first place trophy at the 2015 Holiday Classic.
Chloe Schiavone (Girls 14) has a two-stroke lead in her age group after shooting even par in round one. Schiavone’s impressive 72 is her lowest round by nine strokes in her three-year World Championship career. She has six Jacksonville Local Tour victories to her name, and will look to add an even bigger piece of hardware to her trophy case this week at Mid Pines.
Sixteen-year-old Ling-Jie Chen (Girls 15-18) traveled all the way from Taiwan for the third consecutive year to claim the top spot after round one in the 2016 Teen World Championship. After posting an even par 72 at Pinehurst No. 6, Chen has a three-stroke lead heading into day two.
The Teen Van Horn Cup will be played Sunday, July 31 on Pinehurst No. 2.
We would like to thank all of the players and their families for joining us last week in East Lothian, Scotland – “The Home of Golf” – for the 9th Annual European Championship.
The opening day of the championship saw albatrosses at Luffness New and The Glen. The final round was graced by a hole-in-one and a third albatross at The Glen.
Angus Klintworth (Boys 15-18) made the first albatross of the tournament at Luffness New. “Aberlady” – the par 5, 14th hole with a sharp dogleg right was tipped out at a whopping 547 yards. Klintworth (pictured below) took an aggressive line and set himself up nicely for a miraculous second shot into the rangy par 5.
Klintworth’s albatross was swiftly backed up by an interesting moment for a 12-year-old Frenchman at The Glen.
Augustine Valery (pictured below), one of the stars of The Short Game – an independent documentary made during the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst – thought he hit his second shot into the tall grass over the green on the par 5, 15th. After searching for a few minutes, Valery declared the ball lost and returned to hit another shot from the fairway (which he stuck to 15 feet).
As one of the other caddies went to tend the pin for the group, he noticed a ball in the hole; it was Valery’s lost ball! After verifying the ruling (Decision 1-1/2) and snapping a quick photo, Valery penciled in his 2 on the par 5.
Hunter Thomson (pictured below) of Calgary, Canada completed every golfer’s dream in his final round when he aced the 4th hole at The Glen.
Finally, Sean-Karl Dobson recorded the third albatross of the tournament on the 8th hole, securing a place at the awards ceremony.
Four of the five courses from last year’s event remained unchanged, while Glen Golf Club was added to the schedule. The Glen, as the locals call it, is often described as a hidden gem, but the secret’s out. This majestic links course wraps around the cliffs of North Berwick, mesmerizing its competitors from tee to green. There are a few quirky holes and blind tee shots, but hopefully it will become a staple in the event for years to come.
No other player in the field this week was as consistent as Graden Lomax. The youngster from Wrentham, MA posted three-consecutive rounds of 34 for a final total of 6-under-par. Lomax has shown a lot of promise – he was the runner-up in the 2015 World Championship and placed in the top five in six different Regional Championships. He finally put it all together this week as he secured his first Championship victory.
After firing a one-under 35 in round one, Jake Valentine fell four strokes behind the leader with a 39 in round two. Valentine knew he faced an uphill battle heading into the final round if he was going to overthrow the consistent Aarav Shah from Melbourne, Australia. Valentine was relentless down the stretch, birdieing four of his last five holes for a final round score of 31 and a one stroke victory.
The nine-year-old boys champion was also decided by a one-stroke victory as Felix Soderman won the age group with a three day total of +7 (223). Soderman returned to the U.S. Kids Golf circuit to improve upon his Top 10 finish in Pinehurst last summer. A well-timed eagle by the Swede on the par 5, 16th proved to be the difference in the age group.
Defending European Champion, Jay Leng Jr. added to his trophy collection on Thursday when he ran away with the Boys 10 age group. Leng Jr. fired rounds of 73-71-73, securing a commanding eleven-stroke victory at Craigielaw Golf Club. Leng Jr., who won the past two World Championships, has his eye on a three-peat in Pinehurst.
After falling just short in last year’s European Championship, Shubham Jaglan posted the low total of all sixteen age groups with a 207 strokes (9-under-par). The New Delhi, India native, who had a five shot advantage through two rounds, carded a 6-under, 66 in the final round to win by thirteen shots.
The aforementioned Glen saw only one participant under par through three rounds of play – Riccardo Roberto made the Italians proud with a final score of 3-under par. Roberto saved his best for last, shooting 70 in his final round. After a shaky 37 on the front, Roberto eagled the 12th and capped off the day with a birdie on 18 to secure his Championship trophy.
Dominic Clemons found himself two shots off the lead heading into the final round. Clemons came out firing on Thursday with a quick eagle on the second, followed up by a trio of birdies on holes six through eight. He finished the day with a 68 which was good enough to turn his two shot deficit into a two shot victory.
Lancelot Salisbury of France played in the European Championship for the sixth consecutive year. Each year, Salisbury improved upon his final standing. Last year was his best finish (8th) before championing the Boys 14 age group in 2016. Salisbury posted rounds of 71-75-71, winning by five strokes and proving that hard work pays off.
In his first sanctioned U.S. Kids Golf event, sixteen-year-old Lukas Pany took home gold in the oldest boys’ age group. Pany carded consistent rounds of 75-72-73, becoming one of only two Spaniards to win this year’s event – the other – his twin sister, Elena.
Isabella Dovhey was one of three Americans to claim the top prize in East Lothian. Dovhey shot back-to-back rounds of 39 leading to a two shot deficit heading into round three. The Florida native proceeded to post the low round of the tournament for her age group (35) on Thursday, winning by two strokes.
No other girl competitor went lower at Longniddry than Rosie Bee Kim. Kim, who hails from the Greater London area, did not post a single round over par in her three day triumph at Longniddry. After placing second in 2015, the exceptional young girl returned to Scotland with a vengeance, firing 33-36-34 to win by five shots.
The infamous Gullane hill was very unkind to all players who faced it this week, but that did not stop Stephanie Barbaglia from grinding out some impressive scores. Barbaglia, who was one of twelve South Africans in the field (including her older brother, Enzo) made her country proud by winning Girls 10 by eight shots.
In 2014, Harriet Lockley finished in tenth place. In 2015, Lockley cracked the top 5 and a earned herself a trophy with a fourth place finish. This year, Lockley continued to improve. After opening with an 80 in round one, Lockely followed up with a 74 in round two, capped off by an impressive 67 in round thee.
Pia Babnik is no stranger to the winners’ stage at the European Championship. The twelve-year-old from Slovenia has played the event since she was old enough to compete at the age of eight. Since finishing in second in her first two tournaments, Babnik has won her last three appearances and has no plans of letting up in 2017.
Ffion Tynan became the fifth United Kingdom representative to hoist a championship trophy on Thursday. Tynan shaved a stroke off of her score each day as she finished with scores of 74-73-72. Tynan has competed in the tournament since the age of nine, has never finished outside the top four, and is now a two-time champion.
Lukas was not the only Pany returning home with a first place trophy. His twin sister, Elena showed the same levels of talent and poise as she won the oldest girls age group with scores of 76-75-78. The Pany twins caught the attention of many this week as their consistency proved the driving force behind their success at Luffness New.
The closest fought cup in its history saw the International side retain their title for the fourth year running after a sudden death playoff.
Just as it seemed that Western Europe would take back the cup for the first time since 2012, fourteen-year-old Sigurdur Gardarsson of Iceland knocked his second shot on the par 5, 18th to five feet. The Western Europe team would par while Gardarsson, with ice in his veins, drained his eagle putt to force a sudden death playoff. The International side went on to edge the cup on the first playoff hole.
The pairing with the lowest round in the European Van Horn Cup were awarded the Morrison Medal, named in honor of the late Sir Garth Morrison, who was Lord Lieutenant for East Lothian, and his wife Lady Gill Morrison.
The boys winners were Shubham Jaglan, from India, and Alan Kournikova, from the U.S., who shot a 65, while Slovenia’s Pia Babnik and Ashley Stevenson, of France, carded a 63 for the girls, all playing for the International team.
Dan Van Horn, President and Founder of U.S. Kids Golf said, “On behalf of U.S. Kids Golf and the 630 players and their families that took part in this year’s European Championship, I want to offer my deepest gratitude to the East Lothian community and everyone who served, volunteered, or helped in hundreds of different ways.
“The talent, the courses, the energy just seems to get better and better every year. We crowned some incredible champions and had the closest Van Horn Cup match in history. Also, we were honored to donate to the formation of the Duncan McLean East Lothian Junior Golf Foundation. It was an amazing week. Most of all, I want to thank the many families I had the privilege to meet. They embody the U.S. Kids Golf mission so well.”