By Amanda Herrington (@AJGAAmanda), AJGA Communications
As one of four match play events on the AJGA schedule (including the Wyndham Cup, Winn Junior Cup Challenge and the biennial PING Junior Solheim Cup) some of the most intense competition comes as players attempt their last chance to earn a spot in match play through playoffs. This year, both divisions faced playoffs for the final spots.
Seven players returned to the No. 1 tee of the Champion Course to face off in sudden death playoff, after finishing at 7-over-par 150. With only six spots available, one player would not advance to match play.
While par was good enough for Austin Connelly of Irving, Texas, Paul Elissalde of France, Jorge Garcia of Miami, Tony Gil of Vaughan, Ontario, and Ryan Grider of Lewisville, Texas, to advance after only one playoff hole, William Gordon of Davidson, N.C., sealed his fate in exciting fashion with a birdie. The first-time Polo Golf Junior Classic participant stuck his approach shot – a 163-yard carry off an 8-iron – to six feet, and knocked in for a beautiful birdie.
Meanwhile on the Fazio Course, three spots were up for grabs with nine girls sitting at 10-over-par 154. The playoff began on No. 10, and would go to No. 18, before returning to No. 10 for the final hole. Ultimately, Cindy Ha of Demarest, N.J., Sabrina Long of Alpharetta, Ga., and Vanessa Ha of Allen, Texas, advanced.
Highlights of the girls showdown
While no one scored better than par, the playoff produced excellent shots under tremendous pressure and a drama-demanding gallery.
Alexandra Farnsworth – The HP Scholastic Junior All-American made it to the final hole, but did not advance. She started off hot, sending her approach shot on No. 10 within 15 feet of the hole. She missed her birdie putt, but her lie sparked applause from the crowd.
Cindy Ha – Ha recovered from what could have been her ticket out of the playoff, after her drive landed in a tree-root ridden rough. She fired an incredible shot from 200 yards, landing on the green 25 feet from the hole.
Sabrina Long – Long played conservatively throughout the three-hole playoff, but finished strong on No. 10. Powering through 20 mph winds, Long stuck her approach to 12 feet, leaving a short putt for birdie. She settled for par, which was good to advance to match play.