The ANA Junior Inspiration Legends Day is an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event that paired 48 junior girls with 24 LPGA Legends in a best ball event played within the final their round of a 54-hole competition.
The juniors were competing for the ANA Junior Inspiration title and a berth in the ANA Inspiration field later that week and a chance to compete on a much larger stage in the LPGA Tour’s first major of the year. The Legends were there to inspire them.
It all worked out.
Rose Zhang, a 15-year old from Irvine, Calif., who was paired with LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan, sank a 10-footer on the infamous 18th green at Mission Hills to clinch a one-shot victory and vault herself into the limelight as a major league player for the rest of ANA Inspiration week. Sheehan, a past champion of the ANA Inspiration back when it was called the Nabisco Dina Shore, was thrilled.
“Enjoy the moment,” Sheehan counseled as she took Zhang’s hand and twirled her around amidst the cheers and applause. And together, Zhang and Sheehan – at the behest of Zhang - leapt into Poppie’s Pond. Sheehan’s last dip? 1996. Watch 2018 Video
With a field of Legends that included LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famers Sandra Haynie, Pat Bradley and Hollis Stacy as well as 3-time U.S. Open champion Susie Berning and 27-time LPGA Tour winner Jane Blalock, also known as the first ever champion of the ANA (1972), the event promised plenty of inspiring moments, wisdom and shared experience for the contending juniors.
“It’s really our pleasure to be here with the juniors,” said Bradley, who won this title in 1986, one of six major championships she would claim in her career. “We are so happy to spend this time with them. They inspire us, and I think it’s important to continue to grow the game for our juniors.”
Liselotte Neumann, a 13-time LPGA Tour champion and U.S. Open winner, combined with her junior playing partners, Hailey Borja of Lake Forest, Calif. and Kynadie Adams of Gallatin, Tenn,, for a score of 10 under par, good enough to top the field in the best ball competition and earn them a special nod at the closing ceremony.
“It was a super fun day,” said Neumann, who has won three times on The Legends Tour. “My playing partners were very consistent and they had great attitudes – smiling a lot but really staying focused.”
“They asked me a few things out there,” added Neumann, “But mostly they did their thing and looked like they knew what they were doing. I enjoyed just being with them and watching them today.”
Canadian Hall of Famer and current Legends Tour President Gail Graham was paired with two big-hitting AJGA juniors, Aneka Seumanutafa of Emmitsburg, Maryland and Macy Fox, of Austin, Texas, who kept her in awe most of the day.
“The power that they each displayed was mind-blowing,” said Graham. “Their tee shots were long and towering.” She added that it was fun to answer questions about her career, her style of play, shot-making and a number of non-golf topics as well.
“While they still have so much to learn about the game – the nuances, the finesse, some strategies and mindsets – they both have exceptional fundamentals, solid technique and fine short games and putting strokes,” enthused Graham. “It was definitely inspiring.”
From the first tee to the finishing hole, Legends were permitted to advise juniors when asked – whether to read a putt or help with a course management decision. Some were engaged regularly while others might have helped with moral support or a pep talk here and there. Only one was asked to jump in a pond, but that made sense at the time.
“Dinah Shore would have loved this event,” said Hollis Stacy, a three-time U.S. Open champion, to her junior playing partner, Kyra Cox, following their round together. “She was a unique, smart lady, a great entertainer and a tremendous supporter of women’s golf and junior golf. We all loved her and she would have thoroughly enjoyed the ANA Junior Inspiration today.”
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