Socal Duo Wins Rolex Tournament of Champions

Anthony Paolucci and Kristen Park

It’s already been a terrific summer for Anthony Paolucci.
The 17-year-old from Del Mar, who captured the Thunderbird International Junior in June, collected six birdies in the final round to claim the 33rd annual Rolex Tournament of Champions by two strokes over Patrick Rodgers of Avon, Ind., at Blessings Golf Club in Johnson, Ark.
“I tried not to think too much about winning the tournament, but the thought kept creeping back into my mind,” said Paolucci, who will be a junior at La Jolla Country Day School in September.
“When I birdied No. 14 and had that good putt on No. 15, going to three-under with three holes to go, I started to sense that I could win it. At the same time, anything can happen on this golf course and I knew that going in.”
In the Girls’ Division, Kristen Park of Buena Park squandered much of a six-stroke lead but carded birdies on the last two holes, including a chip-in on No. 17, to win by four strokes over Emily Tolbert of Burbank.
Park posted a score of 73-73-73-71–290, 2-over par, to claim her first American Junior Golf Association invitational title, and Tolbert, who will be a freshman at the University of Arkansas, finished at 74-72-75-73–294.
“I felt a little bit of pressure after my lead was cut to only two shots after No. 16,” said Park, the 2007 U.S. Girls’ champion who will be a senior at Sunny Hills High in Fullerton.
“I managed to stay focused and holed out from the rough on No. 17 to increase my lead back to three with one hole to play. The birdie on No. 18 was just icing on the cake for one of the biggest junior wins I have ever had.”
Marijosse Navarro of San Antonio, Texas, was third at 77-75-71-73–296, followed by Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand at 75-80-67-75–297, Gabriella Then of Rancho Cucamonga at 73-76-78-73–300, Victoria Tanco of Bradenton, Fla., at 83-66-75-77–301, and Rachel Morris of Carlsbad at 74-74-73-81–302.
Ani Gulugian of Irvine was 14th at 78-78-80-74–310, Michelle Piyapattra of Corona finished 16th at 76-81-76-83–316, Kaira Martin of Paradise Valley, Ariz., tied for 18th at 73-81-79-84–317, and Anna Kim of Chandler, Ariz., was 24th at 81-72-90-81–324.
In the Boys’ Division, Paolucci finished at 71-74-70-72–287, 1-under par, followed by Rodgers at 71-74-69-75–289 and David Lee of Houston at 75-74-72-73–294.
Jay Hwant of San Diego tied for 14th at 77-74-75-75–301, Shane Lebow of Santa Barbara tied for 16th at 70-70-83-79–302, Michael Kim of Del Mar tied for 18th at 75-76-80-72–303, and Preston Valder Yorba Linda shot 76-74-74-82–306 to tie for 21st with A.J. McInerney of Henderson, Nev., who wound up at 73-79-77-77–306.
Jeff Wibawa of Encino finished 34th at 79-72-87-77–315.
Paolucci could not pull away despite recording four birdies on the front nine because he also had a double bogey.
“At the turn Patrick and I were tied and he was playing solid, too,” said Paolucci, the San Diego Section high school champion who has committed to USC. “I was very good at keeping a good frame of mind when things started to get tight. For some reason, I did a very good job of staying in the moment.”
And in the lead.

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