Las Vegas, NV – Destination Las Vegas: as players from all over the world descended upon the “Sin City” for the World Stars of Junior Golf, the weather and course conditions were purely delightful at The Badlands Golf Course! Temperatures in the mid 80’s for 2 days and then escalating to the mid 90’s proved to be ideal scoring conditions for the all participants.
Day 1 of the World Stars showed Mariana Rodriguez Chavez of Columbia firing out of the gates just off of the heels of a fine final round at IMG Junior Worlds the previous week. Chavez’ first round of -5 under par 32 (par 37) propelled her to a 2 shot lead over Las Vegas’ own Angelina Huang and a 4 shot lead over Avery “The Nugget” Zweig of Dallas, TX. Chavez had a “bogey free” round carding 3 birdies and an eagle on the par 5, 6th hole. Huang also came out of the gates swinging fists of fury as she birdied holes 1,4,5 and 9. Her near perfect scorecard was only marred by a bogey on the 8th hole. Zweig seemed to be sleepwalking through the challenging yet short Badlands course carding a bogey on the par 4, 5th hole sandwiched by birdies on the 4th and 6th holes.
Day 2 was more of the same out of Chavez who backed up her career best round on day 1 with a very solid -4 under par 33 with yet ANOTHER bogey less round resulting in a clean card! Huang bested her day 1 result by one stroke firing a -4 under par 33 sprinting out of the gates with an eagle on the par 5 first hole and birdies on 5, 6 and 7. A perfect card again eluded Huang with a bogey on the 2nd hole yet when it was all said and done the day 2 results ended with Huang still nipping at the heels of Chavez with a mere deficit of 2 shots. On day 2, Zweig did seem to awaken from her slumber with a -3 under par 34. In spite of the small surge, Zweig found the gap widening with her trailing Chavez by 5 shots going into round 3 and Huang by 3.
Day 3 was the final round of the World Stars of Junior Golf and not for the faint of heart. Right out of the blocks, there was a very strong cross wind blowing from left to right across the 1st fairway. This is important because it led to BOTH Chavez and Zweig being forced into desert rocks and brush with their tee shots and both having to take a lateral hazard and penalty stroke. In spite of the aforementioned penalty, Avery Zweig took her drop and got “up and down” for a birdie. Huang and Chavez both earned a par on the hole and Zweig narrowed the gap to 4 shots and 2 shots with Chavez and Huang respectively. Things remained consistent until the 3rd hole where Huang continued to hole clutch putts and remain steady. Chavez began to wobble a bit with a bogey on the 3rd hole while Zweig and Huang both earned birdies. Huang and Chavez were even after 3 and both leading Zweig by 2 each. Zweig continued to get into and out of trouble for pars but pars were not going to erase the deficit on this day. Add in the fact that Chavez hit a beautiful tee shot on the center of the green on the 5th hole and birdied the hole with a 2 putt and regained her lead from Huang by 1 and 3 shots over Zweig. The 6th hole arrived and Chavez started to slide by making par on this hole. However that wasn’t the noteworthy item on that hole. Zweig birdied and gained one on Chavez, but after what seems an unfortunate bounce over the green for Huang, she calmly stepped up and CHIPPED IN for a smooth eagle and took the lead from Chavez while widening the gap with Zweig. It was a jarring and tense moment for Zweig and Chavez, but Zweig stepped up and hit a smooth 5 wood on the front of the green leaving a 63 foot putt for eagle while Huang and Chavez were each about 20 yards off of the green. 63 feet??? Never fear, Zweig stroked her putt to 2.5 feet and holed it for birdie. Chavez and Huang made par, with Huang narrowly missing her birdie attempt. Zweig narrowed the lead with Chavez to 1 hot but Huang was now in the lead with a 2 shot lead over Zweig and 1 over Huang. 8th hole all three girls hit fantastic tee shots on the par 3, 55yd 8th hole. Huang missed her 12 foot left to right side breaking putt. Chavez stepped up from 12 feet and like an assassin, drilled her putt in the center of the jar for birdie. More out of necessity, Zweig matched Chavez’ birdie with one of her own. So they step up to the par 5 255yd 9th hole with Huang and Chavez with a one shot lead over Zweig. Chavez missed the fairway on the right side and Zweig and Huang both piped their drives down the middle. The tee shot on the 9th is more of a positioning shot and they played it as such. Misfortune struck Chavez first and she attempted to lay up and her shot found the water. Next up was Huang who is a lefty, blocked her 3 wood into the water hazard which runs along the entire left side of the fairway towards the green. This left Zweig in control of her destiny after having very little control the entire round. 122yds separated Zweig from the pin and she hit a smooth 6 iron directly at the pin in spite of the 20+mph right to left crosswind. This left Zweig with a short chip up onto the green and left her with a birdie putt for her last remaining business to attend to in the match. Chavez would end up carding a triple bogey 8 on the hole and Huang ended up with a double bogey 7. It’s worth mentioning that Huang had a putt for bogey which would have forced Zweig to make the birdie putt to avoid a playoff. However, Huang ended up with a double bogey which allowed Zweig the opportunity to 2 putt from 6 feet in order to win. That notwithstanding, Zweig holed the putt for her 4th consecutive birdie to close out the round for the win and a -6 under par 31. Zweig ended up with a 3-day total of 101, Huang 103 and Chavez 104. Additionally Zweig and Huang would end up with the two lowest cumulative scores of the entire tournament irrespective of age or gender.
The upcoming week finds most of the field headed to Pinehurst for the US Kids World Championship which is held on July 30-August 1.