If you want to watch some great golf without spending a hundred bucks for a ticket, parking a hour away from the course and elbowing your way through 50,000 spectators, check out the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls' Junior Championships next week at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ. They're played concurrently over the two courses July 20-25. Admission is free, there's plenty of free parking, and the golf is guaranteed to be as good as you're going to see anywhere.
But these are kids, right? Yes they are--and fine golfers, too. Entrants must be 17 or under to play in these USGA events, but boys are required to have a handicap index no higher than 6.4 and the girls an 18.4. These may not match U.S. Open requirements, but some of the best players in the game compete in these tournaments. The Girls' Junior helped launch the careers of Mickey Wright, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Nancy Lopez, Amy Alcott, and Hollis Stacy, who won three consecutive titles from 1969 to 1971. More recent winners include Michelle McGann (1987), Brandie Burton (1989), Aree (Wongluekiet) Song (1999), and 2008 US Women's Open Champion, Inbee Park.
Another three-time title holder is Tiger Woods, who took it in 1991-1993, then turned around and won the U.S. Amateur the next three years. Woods was 15 years, six months, and 28 days old when he won in 1991, making him the youngest champion so far. Other Junior winners include Johnny Miller (1964), Gary Koch (1970), David Duval (1989), and defending champion Kevin Tway (2005), son of professional golfer Bob Tway.
And here's a little bit of history: The first U.S. Junior Championship was played in 1948 and was won by Dean Lind of Rockford, IL, who defeated future U.S. Open champion and legendary golf commentator, Ken Venturi.
The Trump courses won't be baby-fied for these events. The Old Course will play at 7,100 yards and a 75.8 rating and 146 slope for the Junior Am while the New Course will clock in at 7,159 yards with a 74.3/144. They'll play at 6,203 yards (Old) and 6,294 yards (New) for the Girls' Junior. Both courses require accurate games off the tee and masterly putting.
The first two rounds will be played as stroke play, with match play beginning Wednesday, July 22. Two rounds of match play are scheduled for each day, Thursday through the Saturday final. Players will alternate courses, with the boys ending on the New Course and the girls on the Old. If you can't make it in person, the Golf Channel will carry the semifinals on July 24 and the finals on July 25. NBC will air highlights of the tournaments on August 1, 2-3 PM.
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a romantic thriller about blood diamonds in the Congo