Several important amateur events take place in late December and early January, and this year’s results did not disappoint.
A star junior won, a pair of highly ranked college players pulled through and a few potential up-and-comers in the college ranks also served notice.
Alexa Pano continues to stand out. The 14-year-old captured the Dixie Amateur on Dec. 21, propelling her to qualify for an invitation to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The teenager is the top player in the Class of 2022 and made plenty of headlines in 2018 by competing in an LPGA event as a 13-year-old. But before punctuating the year with that Dixie Am win, Pano also captured the Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship and reached the final of the U.S. Girls’ Junior.
In previous years she won on the AJGA just days after her 12th birthday (making her possibly the second-youngest winner ever on the circuit) and was victorious in her age division at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship five times.
Emilia Migliaccio held off another teenage star in Angelina Le (a Stanford signee) at the Harder Hall Invitational on Jan. 12, earning the win in a playoff. The Wake Forest sophomore was No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin college rankings after the fall. This big victory could propel her to ANNIKA Award contender status this spring, especially with a few top women’s college players turning pro after LPGA Q-Series.
A top-10 player on the men’s side also earned a victory, as Arizona State’s Chun An Yu (Golfweek’s college No. 7) won the Australian Master of the Amateurs in a playoff Jan. 11. Yu has been an underrated presence. He didn’t get a ton of fanfare as a junior despite winning the Junior Players Championship and the Western Junior. Yu finished his 2017-18 sophomore year at Arizona State ranked No. 53 by Golfweek and proceeded to qualify for the U.S. Open. As the wins and impressive results pile up, Yu will get his due.
Some results of note arrived in other amateur events. Memphis’ Isaiah Jackson posted a three-shot win Dec. 31 at the Patriot All-America Invitational, giving the junior a signature victory in his first year with the program (he’s a transfer who spent his first two seasons at Meridian Community College). He enters the spring ranked 195th by Golfweek.
UCF’s Kyler Tate, Golfweek’s No. 151, won the New Year’s Invitational on Jan. 6. A pair of Florida State players also made noise, as Greyson Porter (No. 382) romped to a seven-shot win Dec. 30 at the Orlando International Amateur and Jonathan Keppler (who failed to crack the Seminoles starting lineup this past fall) won the men’s side of the Dixie Amateur on Dec. 21.
Among the impactful wins: Texas freshman Pierceson Coody closed in 3-over 74 on Dec. 22 at Miami Beach GC’s Normandy Shores Course and held on for a one-shot victory at the South Beach International Amateur. His twin brother, Parker, is also on Texas’ roster, and their grandfather is 1971 Masters champion Charles Coody.
Pierceson proved there was something to his lineage this fall with a pair of top-10 finishes that pushed him to No. 93 in Golfweek’s college rankings. But he came away from the fall with plenty to improve upon at the college level.
“I’ve always considered myself a good driver of the golf ball, that’s kind of my strong suit, my go-to,” he said. “But my wedge play and my iron play in general have got to get significantly better. … Everything needs to get a little bit tighter, and I think it will be good.”
He worked on those areas as well as his putting after the fall season. He believed his short game and his putting (particularly his speed on the greens) was much improved at South Beach.
The win alters his goals. He had looked to push into the top 100 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking in 2019, but he already moved there with that win (he’s No. 94). Instead, his focus shifts toward reaching the top 50 to qualify for big events (such as the U.S. Amateur). His most aspirational goal is to make the 2019 U.S. Walker Cup team.
But his focus for the spring is in college, of course, as he tries to build toward All-America status. At the very least, the end-of-the-year win offered a huge dose of confidence going into the new year.
“It helps me build a lot going into the second semester of college,” he said. Gwk