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Wu top local entrant as AJGA returns

Dylan Wu has already enjoyed a breakout year on the golf course.

The Medford boy hopes it continues this week as he carries the banner of local favorite during the American Junior Golf Association tournament Tuesday through Thursday at Centennial Golf Club.

Wu and Rogue River's Kevin Murphy have established themselves as the best young players in the Rogue Valley in recent years, and both registered for the AJGA event that is making its second stop here in as many years.

However, Murphy qualified for the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego, which are also this week, and opted to play in the international event on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

Wu and Grants Pass' Ryan Melnychuk are among 13 boys and girls from Oregon in the 144-player field.

Following a junior-amateur tournament and practice round today, the 54-hole tournament begins Tuesday. After the first two 18-hole rounds, the field will be cut to 50 percent and ties for Thursday's final round.

Twelve states and six foreign countries will be represented.

Spectators are welcome and there is no admission charge.

The AJGA is home to the nation's top junior players and stages more than 80 events. It's trip to Centennial last year was its first in Oregon since 2006. Earlier this summer, it held an event at Sunriver.

Wu has placed in the top 10 of three of AJGA events in the past year, and last year finished 30th while competing against a number of older players in the Centennial Junior.

Wu, who as a freshman last spring led St. Mary's High to the Class 3A/2A/1A state championship, was 7 over par with rounds of 73, 76 and 74 a year ago.

"I felt like I played pretty good," said Wu. "The course was in great condition. It was the perfect course for long hitters. That was a little bit of a disadvantage for me and why the scores were pretty low. This year, I've gained a little more distance and I've played Centennial more in the offseason and know the course pretty well."

In addition to the high school state tournament success, Wu has recorded a couple of 66s this year.

"I feel like (his game) is getting better right now," said Wu. "I've been scoring better this year. I had a few breakthrough rounds and feel like I can player this year because I'm more prepared."

Wu has ventured to courses other than his home layout, Rogue Valley Country Club, to become more acclimated to various courses. He also is an avid hockey player but will give up his travel-team play and devote more time to golf.

"This is like a major stepping stone for me," he said. "I like hockey but golf is my favorite sport."

Wu is scheduled to go off the first tee at 7:10 a.m. in the opening round. Melnychuk goes an hour later, also on the first tee.

Last year's boy and girl winners, George Cunningham, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., and Jennifer Ha, of Calgary, Alberta, won't be back.

Cunningham won the Boys Division, for ages 12-18, with a 17-under-par 199 over 54 holes. He set the course record of 64 from the back tees.

Murphy, who has had a stellar summer — he leads the state junior points list and recently was named to represent Oregon in the Americas Cup — had a difficult time passing up the Centennial Junior.

"I actually debated it for quite a while," he said. "Mainly, it would have been nice to finally be home for a week and have such a big tournament close to where I live. It's something you don't get very often, and I have good course knowledge there."

Murphy was medalist in a June qualifying tournament for the Junior World at the Oregon Golf Association course in Woodburn. His 4-under-par 68 won by one stroke.

Among Murphy's reasons for choosing the Junior World, he said, was that there are expected to be more than 100 college coaches watching the action. Murphy will be a junior this fall.

Some of the players to watch this week at Centennial are:

  • Jay Burlison, of Salinas, Calif., will look for his first win since 2008, when he captured the Mayakoba Junior Golf Classic. Burlison is a rising junior and most recently tied for second at the Southern Junior.
  • Sulman Raza, of Eugene, returns after a top-20 showing here in 2010. Raza tied for third at the 2009 AJGA Junior at Wenatchee, Wash.
  • Allisen Corpuz, of Honolulu, is the highest-ranked player in the field. At No. 44 in the Polo Golf Rankings, Corpuz won the 2010 AJGA Junior at Quad Cities and has compiled five top-five AJGA finishes in her career.
  • Amy Lee of Brea, Calif., is No. 45 in the Polo rankings and returns to the AJGA Junior at Centennial after finishing tied for third last year. Lee also tied for second at the 2010 Emerson Junior Golf Classic and tied for fifth at the 2011 Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic hosted by Longbow Golf Club.
  • Caroline Inglis, of Eugene, is playing in her second AJGA event after posting a top-20 finish at the AJGA Junior at Diablo Grande. Inglis also finished 11th at the Kathy Whitworth Invitational last March.

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