Around the Green
The latest golf-related news, notes, and feature stories from the TGA.
Winter Classic Set for Jan. 16-17
DALLAS – For the eighth straight year, the Winter Classic will be the first event of the Legends Junior Tour season. Since its inception in 2010, the field has proved to be one of the top-ranked LJT events on its schedule.
“The LJT is excited to get back to work with the Winter Classic,” LJT Tournament Director Kevin Porter said. “We will continue to prioritize the health of our players, spectators, volunteers and staff throughout this season. We look forward to starting off this year with another safe and competitive championship at Dallas Athletic Club.”
DAC’s Blue Course will play host for the 12th consecutive year. It was originally designed by Ralph Plummer in 1954. Thirty years later, Jack Nicklaus, who won the 1963 PGA Championship held at DAC, remodeled the course to its current layout. The esteemed 18-hole championship venue has hosted many elite amateur events including the 110th Texas Amateur in 2019, as well as the 2012 Texas Mid-Amateur. The par-72 layout stretches to 6,922 yards.
The 84-player field is divided into three different divisions: Boys 15-18, Girls 12-18 and Boys 14 & Under. Players eligible for the tournament have an active membership with the Texas Junior Golf Alliance and have earned their way into the field by way of the LJT Priority Entry Status.
This year’s Winter Classic boasts another strong cast of competitors across all three divisions. Trenton Mierl of Austin and Connor Adams of Dallas highlight the Boys 15-18 Division. Mierl played last season in the Boys 14 & Under Division and finished second in the Player of the Year Standings. He won three times, including last year’s Winter Classic, and recorded top-10 finishes in all nine events he played. Adams, who is playing his final LJT season, closed out 2020 with three straight top-5 finishes, including a win at the James A. Ragan Memorial. Mierl and Adams will tee it up against a host of great players, including Trevor Mierl of Austin, Preston Stout of Richardson and Andrew Petruzzelli of Dallas.
In the Girls 12-18 Division, two players who won last season are in the field. Natalie Cao of Sugar Land won the Flodder Financial Shootout, while Farah O’Keefe of Austin won the Lanny Wadkins Junior Championship. Maelynn Kim of Katy, Mimi Burton of Austin, Jiyu Han of Cedar Park, Jenna Madden of McKinney and Sophie Biediger of Dallas are also players to watch and all finished in the top-12 of the 2020 Player of the Year Standings. This year, four out-of-state junior girls gained entry into the field through their national rankings and will compete in an LJT event for the first time.
In the Boys 14 & Under Division, Rhett O’Rear of Plano will look to start his 2021 campaign right where he left off last fall. The 2025 high school graduate earned last year’s Boys 14 & Under Player of the Year honors and won twice. He registered nine top-10s and never finished worse than T11.
“The Winter Classic usually has a strong field as players are looking to get back into competition following a brief break over the holidays,” Porter said. “This year’s field is no different and will be a great way to start the 2021 season.”
Last year, Ethan Fang of Plano carded back-to-back rounds of 3-under-par 69 to run away with the Boys 15-18 title and win by seven strokes. Kaylee Vesley of Austin, who currently plays for the University of Oklahoma, won the Girls 12-18 Division with rounds of 71-78, while Trenton Mierl of Austin clinched the Boys 14 & Under Division by one stroke. Other past champions include Brad Dalke, Cole Hammer, Brandon Smith, Annika Clark, Hailey Jones, Grace Choi and Sadie Englemann.
The Winter Classic is the first of 10 open LJT events. The open events are available to any member of the Texas Junior Golf Alliance, which is made up of the TGA, NTPGA, STPGA and HGA. Players earn entry into the open events through their play on the LJT and in Texas Junior Golf Alliance events.
Tee times begin Saturday, Jan. 16, at 8 a.m. The final round takes place on Sunday, Jan. 17. For more information on the Winter Classic or the LJT, click here.