Victoria CC to host Texas Girls’ Invitational
ADDISON – The Texas Girls’ Invitational travels to Victoria Country Club for the first time in the 14th edition of the event. Set for Feb. 18-20, this will be the first major championship of the 2023 LJT season.
The Texas Girls’ Invitational will feature a 76-player, girls-only field. Over the past decade it has become one of the top junior events in Texas on the schedule. The inaugural playing of this event featured 12 players back in 2010, but now boasts one of the most competitive fields each year.
In 2019, the event became a 54-hole championship held in February with World Amateur Golf Ranking points up for grabs. Additionally, the tournament also offers numerous AJGA Performance Stars to the top finishers including 12 for the champion. Prior to 2019 the event was 36 holes and annually held in the fall.
This is the first LJT event to be played at Victoria CC. Originally built by E.L. Grunder as a nine-hole course in 1924, the current eighteen-hole layout was redesigned by Joe Finger. The course is considered one of the finest in South Texas and tips out at just under 7,000 yards.
“We are very excited to host the Texas Girls’ Invitational at Victoria Country Club for the first time as we welcome many of the best girls in the state,” Tournament Coordinator Katie O’Connell said. “The field for this event continues to get stronger each year. We are excited to crown our first major champion of the year.”
Austin’s Farah O’Keefe won by an impressive seven strokes last year at the Texas Girls’ Invitational by finishing two-under par. A field of rising stars and previous LJT winners will take on the Victoria CC this year and look to etch their name on the Nez Muhleman trophy.
The ’Nez Muhleman trophy is named after Inez “’Nez” Muhleman of Houston. She was long known for her dedication to junior golf.
Past champions of this girls-only championship include Kaci McCartan, Lakareber Abe, Maddie McCrary, Vanessa Ha, Jaravee Boonchant, Anne Chen, Makenzie Niblett, Hailey Jones, and Tillie Claggett.
This is the first Major Championship for the girls of the 2023 LJT season. For more information on the Texas Girls’ Invitational, please click here.
Tillie Claggett Wins 2020 Girls Match Play Championship
THE COLONY – Tillie Claggett, a high school junior from The Woodlands, allowed her mind to drift a few times this week to daydream about what was really at stake in the 2020 Girls Match Play Championship. Now that she’s won it – after Sunday’s 2 & 1 victory over Fort Worth’s Savannah Barber in the Final match at Old American Golf Club – Claggett can do more than just think about it.
She can plan on it.
With the victory, Claggett earned a spot into the LPGA’s 2020 Volunteers of American Classic, set for Dec. 3-6 right back here at Old American. It’ll be her first time playing in a professional event, and she can’t wait to see how her game stacks up against the best in the world.
“It’s OK to think about what’s on the line,” said Claggett, who attends high school at The John Cooper School and is committed to Vanderbilt. “It’s naïve to say that you can’t think about it. It’s totally impossible to not get ahead of yourself a little bit. But the second I caught my mind wandering, I let myself imagine it for a second and enjoyed that feeling of the possibility. But then I immediately pushed it aside and focused on the next shot.”
The strategy worked. Claggett played a power game all week and especially in Sunday’s Final match. She routinely drove it 15-20 yards past Barber, who conversely relied on precision and consistency to keep pace. Claggett birdied the first hole to take a 1-up lead after she outdrove Barber and stuffed a short iron to 4 feet.
That lead held up through the first six holes. Claggett, who qualified for the Girls Match Play Championship with a win at the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour’s 2020 Mid-Summer Classic, went 2-up when Barber bogeyed the par-4 seventh hole.
Barber stuck back quickly, however. She rolled in a 5-foot birdie on the par-4 eighth hole to cut Claggett’s lead in half. Claggett then bogeyed the par-4 ninth hole, which allowed Barber to pull even in the match.
Claggett’s 6-foot birdie on No. 10 pushed her back ahead, 1 up. She went 2 up when Barber bogeyed the par-4 14th hole. Claggett closed out the match with a 4-foot birdie on the par-5 17th.
“I was trying to keep the pressure on as much as I could,” Claggett said. “I think the approach shots are really crucial on this golf course. There were tough pin positions on small greens that I find really difficult to read, personally. So getting myself as close as possible was really critical.”
This was the fourth match Claggett won in the past three days. Her work began Friday morning with a 2-up victory against Grace Jin of San Antonio in the Round of 16. Claggett turned around that afternoon and disposed of San Antonio’s Julia Vollmer, 5 & 3. In Saturday afternoon’s Semifinals, Claggett birdied her final three holes to rally from a 2-down deficit and defeated Meagan Winans of Richardson, 1 up.
Barber, for her part, provided a stern challenge on Sunday. She hit nine of 12 fairways in the Final match and 13 of 17 greens. She went 3-1 in matches for the championship.
“I was always fighting; I never gave up,” said Barber, a junior at Spring Creek Academy who earned her spot in the 16-player field with her top-20 ranking in the LJT’s 2020 Player of the Year points race. “I played pretty solid today, just hitting greens and fairways and went from there.”
This is the first year for the Girls Match Play Championship, a product of the Texas Junior Golf Alliance and a collaboration between the Legends Junior Tour, the Northern Texas PGA All-American Tour and the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour. Sixteen of the state’s top junior girls earned their way into the single-elimination, match play championship through their junior golf performances in TJGA events.
In order to make this unique event happen, the TJGA partnered with the LPGA, the Volunteers of America and Old American. The result was three days of spirited match play competition, which ended with Claggett punching her ticket into the 2020 VOA Classic.
“The Girls Match Play Championship has been a great success,” LJT Tournament Director Kevin Porter said. “The golf has been superb. The players, caddies and friends and family who attended all complied with our COVID-19 safety protocols. Old American was an awesome, and one-of-a-kind test in Dallas-Fort Worth. A lot of people were involved in bringing this championship together, including the NTPGA, STPGA, LPGA and Volunteers of American. The week played out just as we had hoped.”
The LJT extends its gratitude to everyone involved in this week’s championship, including the players, their caddies, the NTPGA, STPGA, LPGA, VOA and Old American Golf Club. This year’s Girls Match Play Championship promises to be the first of what will become an annual tradition. For more information on the Girls Match Play Championship, click here.
Claggett, Barber to Meet in Girls Match Play Championship Finals
THE COLONY – Tillie Claggett from The Woodlands and Savannah Barber from Fort Worth will meet Sunday in the Final match of the Girls Match Play Championship with a spot in an upcoming LPGA event on the line. Claggett and Barber on Saturday advanced to the Finals after respectfully winning their closely contested Semifinal matches at Old American Golf Club.
Claggett, a junior at The John Cooper School in The Woodlands, found herself 2 down with three holes to play against Richardson’s Meagan Winans. Claggett made a 60-foot bomb for birdie on the par-3 16th hole to get to 1 down with two holes to play. The long putt shifted momentum in the match. Claggett on the next hole nestled a delicate chip shot to 3 feet and made another birdie. The future Vanderbilt Commodores golfer then calmly rolled in a 23-foot birdie on the 18th hole to win the match, 1 up.
“Coming in on 16, I had a really, really long birdie putt,” said Claggett, who played her way into the inaugural Girls Match Play Championship with a win at the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour’s 2020 Mid-Summer Classic. “I just stepped up to it, and I had this feeling that it was going to good. On 17, I love that hole, it’s a par 5. I can get there in two. I birdied that one. On 18, I just knew I had to make that putt.”
She did, and now she’s potentially 18 holes away from earning a spot in the 2020 Volunteers of America Classic, to be played back at Old American from Dec. 3-6.
“I love match play,” Claggett said. “It’s going to be fun no matter what. I love the golf course, just loving having the opportunity. However it goes, it’s going to be a good time.”
Claggett will face Barber, a Spring Creek Academy junior who recently committed to Oklahoma. Barber needed 20 holes to defeat her close friend and roommate at Crown Golf Academy in Arlington, Alexa Saldana from Naucalpan, Mexico.
Barber was 1 up through 14 holes when play was suspended because of lightning in the area at 4:18 p.m. The delay lasted a little more than an hour. When play resumed, Saldana promptly birdied the short par-4 15th to draw even in the match. Saldana had a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 17 to pull ahead, but she missed.
The two competitors tied with pars on 18th and 19th holes. On the next hole, the par-5 second at Old American, Barber poured in a 6-footer for par to win the match in 20 holes.
“It was great to play with Alexa,” said Barber, who qualified for the Girls Match Championship through her top-20 ranking in the Legend Junior Tour’s 2020 Player of the Year points race. “We play a lot of golf together. Being out here and competing together was awesome.”
In its first year, the Girls Match Play Championship is a joint venture of the Texas Junior Golf Alliance. Sixteen of the state’s top junior girls earned their way into the single-elimination, match play championship through their performances on the LJT, Northern Texas PGA All-American Tour and the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour.
The TJGA partnered with the LPGA, the Volunteers of America and Old American and created this thrilling opportunity for one high school girl to compete in an LPGA event.
“The Girls Match Play Championship delivers on our vision of providing Texans with opportunities for world-class competition in their home state,” TGA Executive Director Stacy Dennis said. “Providing our juniors with an opportunity to experience an LPGA event is a unique opportunity to help inspire our players.”
The TJGA has produced many professional female golfers during the past several years. Last year’s VOA Classic champion, Cheyenne Knight of Aledo, played on the NTPGA All-American Tour and was a two-time LJT champion. Other prominent alliance alumni include two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman of Austin and 12-time LPGA winner Stacy Lewis of The Woodlands.
The championship match begins Sunday at 1 p.m. For more information on the Girls Match Play Championship, click here.