Blog Junior: Keeping up with all things junior golf

Junior golf is a proving ground for the next level of competition, and a place where the next star is often identified early.

Looking to keep up with names you should know, tournaments you should follow and news of the junior golf world? Golfweek is here to help. Keep an eye our running junior blog.

We’ll compile newsy nuggets about venues, junior tours, players, significant wins and more here so you can easily follow the game at the junior level. Keep an eye on the “junior” tab on for all other junior-related news.

Also make sure you keep an eye on Golfweek’s Junior Rankings:

Boys rankings | Girls rankings

New junior event selected for Symetra Tour MVP Invite

Feb. 18

The Mack Champ Invitational, a new junior golf event, has been selected by the Symetra Tour as one of three tournaments showcasing minority golfers that will receive a “Symetra Tour MVP Invite” for the 2021 season. Invitees will be selected by the respective tournament’s committee and earn exemption into a designated Symetra Tour event.

The Mack Champ Invitational is named after PGA Tour player Cameron Champ’s late grandfather Mack. It honors his legacy by identifying talented, diverse players. The inaugural event was supposed to be played in 2020 at Memorial Park Golf Course in Houston, Texas, but was postponed to 2021 because of COVID. The 2021 event will take place from March 19-21, and the corresponding Symetra MVP Invite will provide an exemption into the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes Golf Club in Garden City, Kansas, from April 30-May 2.

“We are incredibly excited and grateful for the Symetra Tour’s enthusiasm in supporting our mission with the establishment of the Symetra Tour MVP Invite. Having the ability to award a player in our field with an exemption to compete in the Garden City Classic is huge,” said Cameron Champ. “That will be a fantastic experience for one of these young players and could also lead them to many more opportunities, which is exactly what we’ve set out to accomplish with the Mack Champ Invitational – opening more doors for golfers of diverse backgrounds to have the chance to succeed in this great sport.”

The National Women’s Collegiate Golf Championship will also receive a Symetra Tour MVP Invite, with a third event yet to be determined.

-Julie Williams

Tournament opportunity: Dye Invitational

Feb. 18

The Dye Junior Invitational debuted in 2020 at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana. The 54-hole event includes a boys and girls field of 33 players each. The 2021 event will be played June 6-8.

A new name enters the realm of AJGA tournament hosts

Feb. 18

If it feels like Albane Valenzuela isn’t all that far removed from junior golf, it’s because there’s something to that thought. At 23, Valenzuela has added her name to a stacked lineup of PGA Tour and LPGA pros lending their support to AJGA events.

Valenzuela, who played collegiately for Stanford from 2016 to 2019, competed in the 2016 Olympic Games for Switzerland and was runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2017 and 2019. She earned her LPGA card in the fall of 2019 and is embarking on a “do-over” rookie season afforded by the pandemic.

As a junior golfer, Valenzuela competed for Team Europe on the 2015 Ping Junior Solheim Cup, won the 2015 Doral Publix Junior Classic and 2015 Junior Orange Bowl, and competed in the Evian Masters Junior Cup in 2012.

Now, Valenzuela’s name will remain in the junior game through the Under Armour / Albane Valenzuela Girls Championship. The inaugural event will be played at Longbow Golf Club near Phoenix, May 27-30, a day after the conclusion of the NCAA Women’s Championship across town at Grayhawk Golf Club.

The 54-hole stroke play event will feature 78 girls selected by Performance Based Entry. The tournament joins the AJGA’s all-girls lineup of the Diamond Resorts ANNIKA Invitational presented by Rolex (January), Rolex Girls Junior Championship (June), and Ping Junior Solheim Cup (August).

-Julie Williams

NCAA extends recruiting dead period

Feb. 17

In a bit of bad news for hopeful college golfers – particularly those in the Class of 2022 – the Division I Council extended the recruiting dead period for all sports through May 31, continuing the ban on in-person recruiting activities that began when the pandemic hit last spring.

The only silver lining in the latest dead-period extension was that it also included news of a return, according to the NCAA announcement.

“After careful consideration of all available information, the Council agreed that an extension of the dead period through May 31 was necessary,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “However, there is a strong commitment to use the next several weeks to outline the transition plan back to recruiting activities post June 1 and to provide those plans to prospective student-athletes, their families and the NCAA membership no later than April 15.”

Ping becomes AJGA’s first Legacy Partner, extending contract through 2030

Feb. 16

In the AJGA’s more than 40-year history, Ping has become a name synonymous with the junior golf organization. The equipment company has become the AJGA’s first Legacy Partner, which is a new level of partnership that recognizes longtime support to junior golf. The announcement, and a new contract extension, mean the AJGA and Ping will continue their relationship through 2030.

Ping first appeared as an AJGA sponsor when it hosted the Ping Myrtle Beach Junior Classic at Quail Creek Country Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – an event that ran for more than 10 years. Ping was soon supporting as many as six events per year, including the Ping Phoenix Junior which ran from 1991-2016. Its support in that area continues has continued to date with the Ping Heather Farr Classic.

“It’s a tremendous honor to become the first AJGA Legacy Partner,” said Ping Chairman & CEO John A. Solheim. “We both share a common goal of helping develop highly-skilled young golfers who aspire to compete at the college level and beyond. Our 40-year relationship includes many highlights, but I’m especially proud of the success of the Ping Junior Solheim Cup and its impact on girls’ golf.

“Its stature is elevated with each event and to see many of those participants go on to star in the Solheim Cup brings me great satisfaction and pride. With the growing popularity of golf, it’s more important than ever that we promote the values golf has to offer while bringing the game to the next generation of competitive junior golfers. We’re excited to continue that mission with our friends at the AJGA.”

-Julie Williams

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