PALM BEACH GARDENS, F.L. — Florida natives Jorge Garcia of Miami, and Sam Horsfield of Davenport, and defending champion Cameron Young of Scarborough, New York, are knotted atop the Boys Division leaderboard at 4-under-par 68 after the first round of play at the Polo Golf Junior Classic. Garcia leads the group in the Polo Golf Rankings at No. 2, while Horsfield follows closely at No. 3 and Young sits at No. 9. In the Girls Division, Robynn Ree of Redondo Beach, California, and Mexico’s Ana Paula Valdes of Bluffton, South Carolina, are tied at 3-under-par 69 at PGA National Resort & Spa.
During Monday’s first round, the Boys Division played the Fazio Course (6,951 yards, par 72), while the Girls Division played the Champion Course (6,377 yards, par 72). Following the second round, each division’s field will be cut and the low 32 players will advance to match play.
After opening the round with a birdie, Garcia found a rhythm through the front nine, paring out and turning at 1-under-par. The Florida signee collected four birdies on the back nine and had just one misstep on No. 10.
“I missed a few shots on the back nine but I was able to manage it and make a birdie on No. 12,” Garcia said. “That got me started. I’m really happy with what happened. This is my last junior event and I’m really looking forward to contending this week. It’s such a great field and great tournament overall.”
Horsfield began the first round with birdies on two of the first three holes and bettered his effort at the start of the back nine with three straight birdies. Also a University of Florida signee, Horsfield is coming off his Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-Adidas Golf victory in September.
“I felt like the whole day I was in control of my game,” Horsfield said. “I hit a few bad shots but that’s always going to happen. I three-putted the first hole for par and birdied Nos. 2 and 3 to come back. It was a good start to my round.”
Young’s scorecard was colorful but showed eight birdies on the day, including three in a row on Nos. 12-14. The Wake Forest signee used his success from last year to lift his round.
“Today was up and down,” Young said. “I hit it pretty well today but the putting can be tough sometimes. It definitely helped – knowing the courses better. Being a little more confident and knowing how long the week gets and how hot it can be, especially coming from up north definitely helped me prepare.”
Sitting in fourth is Won Jun Lee of Wesley Chapel, Florida, while Austin Connelly of Irving, Texas, and Nathan Jeansonne of Keithville, Louisiana, are tied for fifth. Rounding out the Boys Division top-10 are Noah Edmondson of Davidson, North Carolina, Will Grimmer of Cincinnati, Ohio, Braden Thornberry of Olive Branch, Mississippi, Sam Burns of Shreveport, Louisiana, Zachary Bauchou of Forest, Virginia, Eddy Lai of San Jose, California, Gabriel Lench of Lake Mary, Florida, and John Pak of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, who are all tied for seventh at 1-under-par 71.
In the Girls Division, Valdes, who started on No. 10, had a strong first-nine showing with three birdies, including one on the par-3, 130-yard No. 17 – the final hole of the Champion Course’s famous Bear Trap. The Clemson commit was even through the front nine en route to her first-round lead.
“On the front nine, I hit the ball beautifully,” Valdes said. “I was hitting a few good shots and flagging a couple. On the back, I struggled with my long clubs and I missed five greens but my short game really helped me on the back. It was a bit mixed but it worked out well.”
Ree notched birdies on Nos. 3-5 and collected three more on the back nine. The first-ream Rolex Junior All-American also took a two on the par-3 17th and made it through the Bear Trap unscathed with pars on Nos. 15 and 16. Her affinity for the course helped her focus throughout the round.
“The course is set up really nicely,” Ree said. “This is one of my favorite courses overall. I think my mentality is similar to the past two years but I think my game has gotten a little better.”
Tied for third are Hannah O’Sullivan of Chandler, Arizona, and Katharine Patrick of West University Place, Texas, at 2-under-par 70. In a five-way tie for fifth are Bethany Wu of Diamond Bar, California, Courtney Dow of Frisco, Texas, Lauren Stephenson of Lexington, South Carolina, Angel Yin of Arcadia, California, and Jaravee Boonchant of Bangkok, Thailand.
Second-round tee times for the Polo Golf Junior Classic will run Tuesday, November 25th, 2014, from 7:30 — 9:30 a.m. off the Champion (Boys Division) and Fazio (Girls Division) Courses at PGA National Resort & Spa.