Maruyama prepares for title defense

GOLF, Illinois (May 8, 2017) – Sean Maruyama of Los Angeles, California, will attempt to become the first player in 76 years to repeat as Western Junior champion when Park Ridge Country Club in Park Ridge, Illinois, hosts the historic 100th playing of the Western Junior in June.

Maruyama, who has committed verbally to play college golf at UCLA, will headline an international field of top junior players vying to win the country’s oldest national junior golf championship June 19-22.

Maruyama, son of longtime PGA TOUR pro Shigeki Maruyama, notched the first major victory of his young career at the 2016 Western Junior at Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak, Michigan. If he repeats as champion this year, Maruyama would become the first player since Ben Downing in 1940-41 to claim back-to-back Western Junior titles.

First held by the Western Golf Association in 1914, the Western Junior has served as a proving ground for many future PGA TOUR stars, including past champions Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and 2015 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Daniel Berger also have competed in the Western Junior. The event was not played for several years during World War I and World War II.

The Western Junior has been played in more than 15 states and at several prestigious Chicagoland golf clubs, but never at Park Ridge, which was established in 1906.

“Given its rich heritage and history, Park Ridge is a fitting venue to host an event as steeped in tradition as the Western Junior,” said Vince Pellegrino, the WGA’s Senior Vice President of Tournaments. “We are honored and excited to celebrate this momentous occasion with the club and its membership.”

Other top players who have committed to play in the event include 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur medalist Travis Vick of Houston, Texas; UCLA verbal commit Bryan Teoh Wiyang of Jupiter, Florida; Andrew Lewis of Carmel, Indiana, who has committed verbally to play at Purdue; 15-year-old Sampson-Yunhe Zheng of China; and future Florida Gator Wocheng Ye of Dongguan, China, who finished T59 last month at the Volvo China Open.

Local players of interest include Illinois recruit and defending Class 3A individual champion Brendan O’Reilly of Hinsdale, Illinois; Kevin Paek of Glenview, Illinois, who will play golf at Boston College next season; Chip Savarie of Winnetka, Illinois, who is verbally committed to play at Wisconsin; and Savarie’s Loyola Academy teammate Connor Prassas, also of Winnetka, who will play collegiate golf next year at Michigan.

“This year’s field is exceptionally deep,” Pellegrino said. “The blend of promising local, national and international talent is what has set the Western Junior apart from other junior golf championships.”

Famed golf architect Herbert J. Tweedie designed the original nine holes at Park Ridge shortly after its founders purchased land for the club in 1906. In 1911, Tom Bendelow – whose designs include the course at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, home of The Tour Championship – was hired to construct nine additional holes.

The course was last renovated in 2001 by David Esler and has been tested over the years by golfing greats such as Chick Evans, Bobby Jones and Arnold Palmer.