100th Western Junior tees off Tuesday

GOLF, Illinois (June 15) — More than 150 of the best junior golfers in the world will seek to join Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk as champions of the country’s oldest national golf championship when the 100th Western Junior tees off next week at Park Ridge Country Club in Park Ridge, Illinois.

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 event begins Tuesday with 18 holes of stroke play followed by another 18 on Wednesday. The field is then pared to the low 44 and ties. The remaining contestants will play 36 holes Thursday to determine the winner of the historic Milt Woodard Trophy.

Defending champion Sean Maruyama of Los Angeles, California, will seek to become the first back-to-back winner at the Western Junior in 76 years.

Maruyama, who has committed verbally to play college golf at UCLA, 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.

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 commits Bryan Teoh Wiyang of Jupiter, Florida, and Clay Seeber of Newport Beach, California; and Stanford verbal commit Karl Vilips of Wesley Chapel, Florida.

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.