The American Junior Golf Association will host a unique match play format for the Polo Golf Junior Classic at Liberty National in the summer of 2019 thanks to support from partners Polo Ralph Lauren and Liberty National Golf Club.
Sixty-four top junior golfers will be invited to compete in a new round-robin style match play event. Based on the Rolex AJGA Rankings, an equal field of 32 boys (Polo Division) and 32 girls (Liberty Division) will be divided into eight groupings of four players each to compete in three guaranteed singles matches, June 25-26. The top eight Polo Division boys and Liberty Division girls from each group after pool play will advance to single-elimination matches, June 27-28. Match play champions for the Polo Golf Junior Classic at Liberty National will be crowned on Friday, June 28.
The unique format, the first of its kind on the AJGA schedule since 1978, was conceived thanks to feedback shared from Player Representatives Rachel Kuehn of Asheville, North Carolina, and William Mouw of Chino, California in a 2018 Board Meeting.
Annually, the AJGA invites a rising high school male and female junior golfer to serve on the Board of Directors and convey player concerns, share ideas and provide perspective to ensure the AJGA delivers the highest level of experience and service. To be selected, players must be excellent golfers proven by their top Rolex AJGA Ranking, display integrity and sportsmanship in all aspects of life, and have the respect of their peers.
Kuehn and Mouw shared the players’ desire to revive the tradition of a boys and girls match play experience, lost when the AJGA traded dates for two of its most longstanding Invitationals – the Rolex Tournament of Champions and Polo Golf Junior Classic. The change provided the opportunity to create two distinct 72-hole stroke play events, providing a guaranteed full tournament experience for both fields, but in doing so, eliminated a favorite player format.
“A lot of players voiced to me they wanted an opportunity to play in a match play tournament,” Kuehn said. “It is fun, exciting and allows a player to express more emotion than he or she normally would. This different style of play also provides an opportunity for players to be more aggressive in their style of play and gain experience that will serve them in future USGA and NCAA tournaments.”
Past champions of the Polo Golf Junior Classic include Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan, Stewart Cink, Ollie Schniederjans, Morgan Hoffman, Trevor Immelman, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, Morgan Pressel and Ariya Jutanugarn.
The 42nd annual AJGA event will be held on the same fairways and greens overlooking the Statue of Liberty, the New York harbor, Manhattan skyline and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge where AJGA alum and tournament host Daniel Berger clinched the 2017 Presidents Cup for the United States. The Jersey City, New Jersey, PGA TOUR venue is also hosting THE NORTHERN TRUST, a 2019 FedExCup Playoffs stop.
“Liberty National is a unique place and we are honored to partner with Polo Golf and the AJGA to host the match play event unique to the junior tour for the next three years,” said Managing Director Lee Smith, PGA. “We feel confident that the boys and girls participating in this event will be treated to an unparalleled unique experience - the juniors will not want to miss this one!”
Along with hosting the Polo Golf Junior Classic, Liberty National Golf Club will be the new venue for the Polo Golf Dinner of Champions. The evening honors the recipients of the USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award, which annually recognizes one boy and one girl who demonstrate leadership, character and community service through their involvement with the AJGA’s Leadership Links program. This program, aimed at helping junior golfers get involved in the charity of their choice, has helped raise more than $2.5 million since its inception in 2009.
The format will offer a fourth match play opportunity in addition to the Wyndham Cup for junior golfers on the AJGA’s 2019 schedule, and serve as an important week for players hoping to be selected to represent their countries on the fall biennial PING Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Presidents Cup teams.
Akshay Bhatia of Wake Forest, North Carolina, was one of three Americans to go undefeated in Junior Presidents Cup play in 2017 on the way to a 14-10 U.S. victory. Bhatia also made history earlier when he broke the 2018 Polo Golf Junior Classic 18-hole scoring record at Echo Lake Country Club on his way to winning the AJGA Invitational by 10 strokes at 17-under-par 267. He went on to become the 2018 Rolex Junior Player of the Year and played recently on an exemption in the PGA TOUR's Valspar Championship.
About the American Junior Golf Association
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls, ages 12-19) of more than 7,200 members from 50 states and 60 foreign countries. Through initiatives like the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant, a financial assistance program, and Leadership Links, a service-oriented platform that teaches juniors charitable-giving skills, the AJGA fosters the growth of golf’s next generation.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 900 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Ariya Jutanugarn, Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Anna Nordqvist, Inbee Park and Lexi Thompson.