One of golf’s major championships for juniors, the Junior PGA Championship is where the best in the world get their start. Begun in 1976, at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., the
Championship has been a popular stop on the national junior circuit for many of today’s PGA and LPGA touring professionals.
In August of 2016, it was announced that the Junior PGA Championship would transition, with an expansion of the size of the field of the new Junior PGA Championships. This presented an opportunity for the Junior PGA Championships to offer all 41 Sections a minimum of two boys and girls players each, thanks to the addition of an at-large bid. This new era began in 2017 as the Country Club of St. Albans (Missouri, near St. Louis) where the 42nd Girls and Boys Junior PGA Championships were contested. The Junior PGA Championship has been contested on 12 storied golf courses, including, but not limited to, PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (hosted 19 Championships), Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo., and Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort & Country Club.
A pair of Californians, Norman Xiong of Canyon Lake and Lucy Li of Redwood Shores, claimed victories in 2016 at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, Rhode Island, as the Boys’ and Girls’ Divisions were staged the same week for the final time.
Elizabeth Wang of San Marino, California needed an extra hole to win the Girls’ Division, while Brad Dalke of Hobart, Oklahoma emerged from a two-hole playoff to claim the Boys’ Division in the 2015 Junior PGA Championship, which was played at Miramont Country Club in Bryan, Texas. Wang won the Junior PGA Championship’s first playoff in the girls division since 2010. Dalke’s victory was noteworthy as it came in the final junior event of his decorated career, and his second-round 62 was the lowest single-round score in Championship’s 40-year history.
In 2014, Kristen Gillman of Austin, Texas, put together a record-breaking performance to win the girls’ division, while Sam Burns of Shreveport, Louisiana, claimed the boys’ division title at Miramont Country Club in Bryan, Texas. Gillman’s four-day total of 16-under-par 268 broke the previously held girls’ division mark of 271 set by Aree Song of Thailand in 1999.
In 2013, both Tyler McDaniel of Manchester, Ky., and Amy Lee of Brea, Calif., captured titles in thrilling fashion, with both making Championship-clinching putts on the 72nd hole.
In 2010, the Junior PGA Championship was punctuated by a three hole playoff that saw Cassy Isagawa of Wailuku, Hawaii, emerge as the girls’ division champion, while Denny McCarthy of Burtonsville,Md., claimed the boys’ division title by three strokes at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.
In 2009, Lexi Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., captured her second Junior PGA Championship, cruising to a 12-stroke triumph, one stroke off the all-time record, set by Debbie Hall in 1977. The 14-year-old Thompson, who was already competing in her fourth Junior PGA Championship, has finished in the top-3 in each of her last three Junior PGA Championships.
In 2007, the 12-year-old Thompson became the youngest winner in the history of the storied Championship.
In 2005, former Junior PGA Champion Sean O’Hair (1998) and former PGA Junior Series winner (1996) became the first ever to achieve PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors. Four LPGA Rookie of the Year honors come from the Junior PGA Girls Champion or runner-up positions: 1985 Penny Hammel (1978 Champion); 1991 Brandi Burton (1988 Champion); 2000 Dorothy Delasin (1998 runner-up); and 2002 Beth Bauer (1997 Champion).
In 2002, former Junior PGA Champion Ty Tryon of Orlando, Fla., became the youngest player (age 17) to earn a PGA Tour fully exempt playing card.
Past Junior PGA Championship competitors who have gone on to successful professional careers include: Billy Andrade, Kathy Baker, Brandie Burton, Stewart Cink, Chris Couch, Tony Finau, Jim Gallagher Jr., Trevor Immelman, Ariya Jutanugarn, Cristie Kerr, Justin Leonard, Billy Mayfair, Michelle McGann, Phil Mickelson, Sean O’Hair, Grace Park, InBee Park, Dottie Pepper, Stacy Prammanasudh, Jordan Spieth, Lexi Thompson, Scott Verplank, Michelle Wie and Tiger Woods.