Paolucci Park named Rolex Junior Players of the Year
Introduced by the AJGA in 1978, the Rolex Junior Player of the Year award recognizes one boy and one girl who had the most outstanding year in junior golf events at the national level. Past recipients have gone on to become some of the most esteemed players on the PGA and LPGA Tours, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Charles Howell III, Hunter Mahan, Scott Verplank, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.
Paolucci finished the season No. 1 in the Polo Golf Rankings while Park was No. 2 in the girls rankings, helping them earn this distinction and secure spots on their respective Rolex Junior All-America First Teams.
A three-time second-team selection, Paolucci ascended to the No. 1 spot in the Polo Golf Rankings after winning the Thunderbird International Junior in May. A second-place finish at the FootJoy Invitational followed by another title-winning run at the Rolex Tournament of Champions secured his No. 1 spot for the duration of the summer.
Park has been a Rolex Junior All-American for five consecutive years. She makes a return to the first team for the first time since 2007. Park’s 2010 season was highlighted by wins at the Rolex Tournament of Champions and Under Armour/Hunter Mahan Championship. A win at the year-end PING Invitational moved Park up one spot in the Polo Golf Rankings ahead of two-time Rolex Junior Player of the Year, Victoria Tanco.
Their accomplishments during the past season will be heralded Nov. 21 during the Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The awards ceremony, dubbed “The Greatest Night in Junior Golf,” will also trumpet the achievements of the rest of golf’s next generation by means of the Rolex Junior All-America Teams, HP Scholastic Junior All-America Teams and Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award.
About Anthony Paolucci’s 2010 Season
Paolucci’s 2010 campaign was a constant stream of top-three finishes in some of the world’s most competitive junior golf events. He started the season with a third-place finish at the HP Boys Championship at Carlton Woods held in February, moving him inside the top 10 of the Polo Golf Rankings.
Paolucci picked up his first career AJGA win at the Thunderbird International Junior, posting a 12-under-par total and claiming the title with a three-shot cushion. The win gave him the No. 1 spot in the Polo Golf Rankings.
In June, Paolucci put an exclamation point on his new position at No. 1 with a statement-making 65 in the first round at the FootJoy Invitational. He finished the tournament one shot back for a tie for second. Two weeks later he picked up his second title at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, conquering Blessings Golf Club as the only player to shoot under par.
Paolucci proved he has the ability to compete in high stakes match play as he worked his way into the final eight at the U.S. Junior Amateur, eventually falling in the quarterfinals. In August, he finished second at the 35th Junior PGA Championship, besting his third-place finish in 2009.
Paolucci spent a majority of his September abroad, representing the U.S. at The Duke of York Young Champions Trophy and competing on the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team. He finished tied for seventh in England and posted a match play record of 1-2-0 in Scotland, helping the U.S. claim its first Junior Ryder Cup victory on foreign soil.
A senior at La Jolla Country Day, Paolucci is a four-time Rolex Junior All-American and has given verbal commitment to continue his golf career with the USC Trojans.
Anthony Paolucci – 2010 Results
3rd, *HP Boys Championship at Carlton Woods (76-68-71–215)
1st, *Thunderbird International Junior (66-69-69–204)
T2, *FootJoy Invitational (65-71-67-69–272)
1st, *Rolex Tournament of Champions (71-74-70-72–287)
T5, U.S. Junior Amateur Championship (lost to Robby Shelton, 2 and 1)
2nd, Junior PGA Championship (70-72-68–210)
* Denotes AJGA event
About Kristen Park’s 2010 Season
It had been four years since Park had won an AJGA event when she captured the Under Armour Hunter Mahan Championship in April. With a tie for seventh at the Annika Invitational and a tie for 10th at the Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic hosted by Longbow Golf Club prior to, she needed a breakthrough win to move into the top 25 in the Polo Golf Rankings. It took a birdie on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to claim the trophy at TPC Craig Ranch.
A month later, Park tied for ninth at the Thunderbird International Junior in a field that included the best juniors from around the world. She inched closer to a second title in June after posting a 66 in the final round of the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior, giving her a second-place finish, just two strokes off the winner.
Her break came at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, where she bested Arkansas commit Emily Tubert on her future alma mater’s course by a convincing four strokes. It was Park’s second title and first invitational win that helped to push her into the top-five of the Polo Golf Rankings.
Come fall, Park knew that she needed to win The PING Invitational in order to be in contention for Rolex Junior Player of the Year honors. Finding herself in seventh place after the first round, Park worked her way up the leaderboard and into position for the win. Her final-round 67 tied the course record and gave her a second invitational title.
Park also had a busy September abroad, traveling with Paolucci to the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy and competing on the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team. Her year also included a Canon Cup win with her teammates of the West and a run at the U.S. Girls Junior Championship, where she advanced to the third round of match play.
A senior at Sunnyhills High School, Park has also given a verbal commitment to Southern Cal.
Kristen Park – 2010 Results
T9, *Polo Golf Junior Classic (Lost to AJ Newell, 19 holes)
T7, *Annika Invitational (75-70-77–222)
T10, *Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic hosted by Longbow Golf Club (74-74-75–223)
1st, *Under Armour® / Hunter Mahan Championship (71-71-76–218)
T9, *Thunderbird International Junior (72-74-73–219)
2nd, *ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior (75-71-66–212)
1st, *Rolex Tournament of Champions (73-73-73-71–290)
1st, *The PING Invitational (74-70-67–211)
T9, U.S. Girls Junior Championship (Lost to Victoria Tanco, 5 and 3)
5th, Junior PGA Championship (73-71-73–217)
* Denotes AJGA event
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.
National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.
The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.
These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:
Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.
This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.
“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”
Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.
In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.
If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.
“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”
Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.
Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.
''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''
The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.
The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.
''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.
''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''
First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).
Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.
''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.
''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''