Media contact: Jeff Shain
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (Dec. 31, 2018) – Australia’s Karl Vilips, seeking history as the first multiple boys’ winner in the history of the Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship, headlines the lineup for the tournament’s 55th edition that will christen a revamped Biltmore Golf Course.
South Floridians Alex Vogelsong and Jake Beber-Frankel give the boys’ field three of the top 15 in the latest Junior Golf Scoreboard rankings. The roster also includes three of the top 11 players from last year’s edition.
Argentina’s Agustina Gomez Cisterna, who tied for seventh in last year’s event, and California’s Yukino Yoshihara top the girls’ field as the Junior Orange Bowl becomes the first tournament test since the historic Biltmore layout reopened in mid-December.
The Donald Ross design, which first opened in 1926, underwent a $2.5 million restoration in the fall to return the course to its original footprint in renderings discovered a few years ago. Greens were restored to their original sizes, as were the Biltmore’s 85 bunkers, and the course added some 300 yards in length.
“We know our tournament, the players and the community will benefit from this project,” said Steven Gonzalez, Junior Orange Bowl golf chairman. “We’re looking forward to being the first tournament to play on the restored course.”
Traditionally played in the days before New Year’s, the tournament shifted into January this winter to give the renovation added time to curate.
Vilips, who won the 2016 boys’ title in dramatic fashion, has a chance to make this week’s edition even more historic if he can walk away with a second title.
The previous 54 competitions have seen 54 different boys’ winners, even as such players as Tiger Woods and Camilo Villegas have graced the Biltmore’s fairways. The girls’ division has produced three multiple winners – Michelle McGann (1985-86), Kellee Booth (1991-92) and Grace Park (1993, ’96).
Two years ago, Vilips rose above a three-way deadlock on the final hole with a skipping pitch shot from just short of the 18th green that disappeared into the cup for a winning eagle. It was part of a torrid year that later included winning the Southern Amateur at Pinehurst Resort.
Though he tied for seventh behind winner Jerry Ji in his Junior Orange Bowl title defense, Vilips since has added to his trophy collection by winning the AJGA’s Wyndham Championship and October’s Youth Olympics in Argentina. He comes to Coral Gables at No.3 in the JGS rankings.
Vogelsong (Palm City, Fla.) stands No.7 after a strong summer that includes a foursome of significant top-15 finishes, including fourth at the Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. He also was fifth at the AJGA’s Tournament of Champions.
Beber-Frankel (Miami) is 13th in the rankings, having tied for sixth at the AJGA Thunderbird Invitational and 14th at the Junior Players.
The field also includes Leopoldo Herrera (Doral, Fla.), who placed sixth a year ago, and Italy’s Andrea Romano (12th).
Gomez Cisterna is the highest returning girls’ finisher, overcoming an opening 77 to push herself up the leaderboard. She booked a return ticket by winning the Scott Robertson Memorial last spring.
Yoshihara reached the Round of 16 at the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Poppy Hills in California.
In all, 55 boys and 41 girls are set to tee it up in Thursday’s opening round. This year’s field brings together entrants from such far-ranging origins as Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, Uruguay, Iceland, Slovenia, Ecuador, Estonia, Haiti, Peru and Qatar.
Live scoring and results can be found all week at JrOrangeBowl.com/golf.
This week’s winners will join a champions’ roster headed by Woods (1991), reigning LPGA Player of the Year Ariya Jutanugarn (2010) and Hall of Famer Inbee Park (2002). Others include LPGA major winners Cristie Kerr (1994) and Lexi Thompson (2009), along with former British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia (1977).
The International Golf Championship is one of 15 athletic, artistic and cultural events that make up the Junior Orange Bowl International Youth Festival, celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2018. The festival draws more than 7,500 youth participants to South Florida’s community each year.
For more information on the Golf Championship or other Junior Orange Bowl activities, visit JuniorOrangeBowl.org.