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Top juniors set for AJGA event

Familiarity with Centennial Golf Club won't guarantee success for local players in a major junior golf tournament this week.

But it can't hurt, either.

"I'm pretty excited because it's really close to my house and I've played the course a lot," says Medford's Dylan Wu, 14. "I like that course. There's a little home-course advantage, but not that much. The field is pretty competitive."

Indeed.

Wu and local players Kevin Murphy, of Rogue River, and Cassandra Carothers, of Jacksonville, will be in the field of 132 boys and girls for the American Junior Golf Association tournament Tuesday through Thursday.

There will be morning and afternoon groups going off the first and 10th holes at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. the first two days. After the second round, the field will be cut to at least 40 percent for the final round, which will begin at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

Thirteen Oregon players are entered in the 54-hole stroke-play event, for which kids ages 12-18 are eligible. In all, 12 states are represented.

There are more than 80 AJGA events nationwide this year, but this is the only one in Oregon. The last time an AJGA event was held in the state was in 2006.

Spectators are welcome.

Wu is participating in his fifth AJGA event this summer. His best finish is a tie for 10th place in the Aldila Junior All-Star in California.

Murphy's summer highlight was playing in the Trusted Choice Big I National Championship three weeks ago in Chesterfield, N.J., where the 16-year-old tied for 26th place.

He returned and didn't fare well in the Portland Junior City Championship immediately after.

"I didn't play good in that one," he said. "Maybe it's because I was so exhausted or something."

But Murphy regained his form and shot in the 60s his next two tournaments, only to be beaten out by slightly better scores.

St. Mary's High player Carothers and Seth Reynolds, of Klamath Falls, had their entry into the AJGA sponsored by Centennial after they won the course's Oregon Golf Association junior tournament.

The local contingent will be in the mix with some of the top young players in the country.

Jordan Niebrugge, of Mequon, Wis., is the highest ranked boy in the field. He has two AJGA victories to his credit, including a win at this year's W. Duncan MacMillan Classic at Rush Creek. He also has two other top-10 finishes.

Tye Gabriel, of Portland, has committed to play for the University of Oregon and will be in his second AJGA tourney. He represented Oregon as a member of the 2009 Hogan Cup and Junior Americas Cup teams and was the stroke play medalist at the 2009 Oregon Junior, where he got as far the semifinals in match play.

Eugene's Sulman Raza, who beat out Murphy in one of the aforementioned events with a 67 recently at Diamond Woods in Monroe, is in the field. He placed third last year at an AJGA event in Wenatchee, Wash., and this past weekend was on the Hogan Cup team.

Kevin DeHuff, of Coto de Caza, Calif., has two top-five AJGA finishes and a tie for 13th this summer.

Jake Knapp, of Costa Mesa, Calif., tied for fourth at the 2010 Under Armour/Vicky Hurst Championship and has three other top-20 AJGA finishes.

On the girls side, Esther Lee, of Los Alamitos, Calif., is the top-ranked entrant. She recently picked up her first AJGA win at the Trader Joe's Junior Championship with a final-round 68.

Lee, ranked No. 45 in the Polo Golf Rankings, has eight top-10 finishes during her AJGA career, with two of them coming in the last four months.

Monica Vaughn, of Reedsport, at 15 the youngest ever to win the Oregon Amateur title and only the third to win that and the Oregon Junior crown in the same year, will be on hand.

Morgan Thompson, of Tualatin, is ranked 74th in the Polo Golf Rankings and has had two top fives in her four AJGA events.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

Top juniors set for AJGA event