By Noël Couch, Communications Intern
The temperature was hot in Tempe, Arizona, and so were the players! The Arizona State University Karsten Golf Course was host to American Junior Golf Association junior players this week at the PING Phoenix Junior at ASU Karsten. The juniors were surely inspired as they arrived on site and drove past the board highlighting the 24 NCAA National Champions from ASU. These players were the best of the best in collegiate golf, but they did not achieve success over night.
Both the ASU men and women’s teams devoted years to training and development during their climb to the top. Many of the players spent their junior years playing in AJGA tournaments around the country. Since the AJGA hosted its first tournament in 1976, every ASU Women’s Golf Individual NCAA Champion was a member of the AJGA. This includes 2008 Champion Azahara Munoz, 1999 Champion Grace Park, 1994 Champion Emilee Klein, and 1985 Champion Danielle Ammaccapane.
On the men’s side, AJGA alum Phil Mickelson was a team and individual national champion as a member of the ASU team. Mickelson played on the circuit from 1985 through 1988, competing in tournaments around the country from the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior to the Savannah Junior Golf Classic. He improved his game as a junior golfer, giving him the ability to play collegiate golf and to later make a name for himself as a professional. His younger brother, Tim Mickelson, also played in several AJGA tournaments. He played in the PING Phoenix Junior at ASU Karsten in 1994 and 1995. Like his brother, Tim has gone on to be successful in the world of golf as the current head coach of the ASU men’s golf team. As head coach, Mickelson’s career has been highlighted by four West Coast Conference Coach of the Year honors.
Similar to the competitors in this week’s tournament, these successful women and men played AJGA golf, where they learned the rules, adhered to etiquette, and developed the skills necessary to eventually play and work in collegiate golf. They started with the AJGA and developed into golf’s next generation. Many of our junior players strive to follow in these same footsteps. They must always remember that behind every champion and every title is years of hard work, dedication, and passion for a sport loved by players of all ages.