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2017-2018 Royal Court


Biltmore Golf Course, Coral Gables, Florida USA – December 30TH:   Australia’s Karl Vilips and Somi Lee from South Korea are the 53rd Junior Orange Bowl International champions.

Vilips posted a final-day 2-under par 69 for a four day 12-under par total of 272. Lee carded an even-par 71, her first round of the week over 70, which was good for a one-stroke victory over France’s Agathe Laisne. In an exciting down to the wire finish, both players birdied their last two holes.

A chilly morning with swirling winds gusting to 20+mph put some extra bite in the famed Donald Ross golf course at the Biltmore hotel, players often stuck between clubs for approach shots where, particularly on long water-guarded par-fours, estimating the wind force becomes critical.

The Boys tournament came to an exhilarating climax. With the final three players, Vilips, France’s Edgar Catherine and defending champion Norway’s Kristoffer Reitan all tied at 10-under par, Vilips sealed his wire-to-wire victory with a 25-yard pitch from just short of the putting surface on the closing par five that skipped once, twice, then disappeared directly into the cup for an eagle three.

“It feels fantastic,” the winner said, expressing an emotive mixture of euphoria and relief. “I did not have a lot good stuff today. My driving was off and my putting was a struggle and I was never able to get anything going. But well, that one shot really changes everything and I’m absolutely delighted.”  He didn’t say so, but his crucial curling five-footer par-save on the 71st hole made it all possible and proved why this 15-year old Australian has a huge future in the game.

Catherine proved he has plenty of heart, fighting back from a double-bogey at the 9th, where his tee ball caught a tree branch near the tee. Defending champion Reitan bunkered his long-iron approach to the final hole and had to settle for par and third place. Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, the 2014 champion, carded a strong 68 to claim 4th spot in this strongly international field.

The Girls tournament turned into an equally thrill-filled final which went to the wire, South Korea’s Somi Lee getting up and down at the final hole for a birdie-four that cemented a one-stroke victory over France’s Agathe Laisne with Canada’s Monet Chun in third place. Laisne also placed second last year.

“This is my first tournament outside my home country,” Lee said through an interpreter, “and I’ve been very nervous. So obviously I’m delighted to have played well when it mattered.” No shot more crucial, in retrospect, than her approach to the water-guarded 17th, where she followed Laisne’s flag-tight approach with one that was even closer.

“I did everything I could today,” the repeat runner-up said. “I can’t be disappointed by that. I gave away a few shots in earlier rounds, and that was the difference.”

Junior Orange Bowl International Golf – Day 3

Karl Vilips stays on top – Kristoffer Reitan sets new record – Somi Lee forges ahead  

Coral Gables, FL, Dec 29: With eighteen holes to play, Australia’s Karl Vilips, the overnight leader, retained the tournament lead by a single stroke in the Boys Division, closely pressed by defending champion Kristoffer Reitan.

The 18-year old Norwegian vaulted from nine shots behind at the halfway stage with an 8-under par 63, setting a new championship record at this famed Donald Ross Biltmore Hotel course.

In the Girls Division, South Korea’s Somi Lee posted a second consecutive 69, her three-day total of 7-under par extending the lead to five over France’s Agathe Laisne and Canada’s Monet Chun.

Sweden’s Lynn Grant, 17, winner of last week’s Doral-Publix Junior Classic, had a dream start, after par to start, a hole-in-one, then birdie, birdie, birdie – five under in four holes. Grant finished with 69, in 5th place, one behind Mexico’s Ana Laura Collado.

“I always plan to go out and shoot low rounds, but of course it doesn’t happen so often,” Reitan commented after his eagle-plus-seven-birdies round. “Once I got off to a fast start, I tried hard to keep the momentum going because I knew Karl had been running away with the tournament and only a really low score would give me a chance to win.”

A three putt at the 15th seemed to have derailed his record-busting attempt but problem resolved when he holed out from 65-yards at the net hole for an eagle-2. “I came close to holing two other shots from the same distance earlier in the round, so I was very happy but not completely surprised when the ball went in the hole.”  

“My driving was terrible on the front nine,” 15-year old Vilips said, who was three-over par for the front nine, but recovered nicely for an even-par round of 71 by birdieing four of his last five holes. “I was pulling everything left with the driver, but that’s a less bad thing on the back nine, so I just decided to stay with it, rather than try a fix mid-round. Luckily my putter came alive towards the end.”

France’s Edgar Catherine sits solo-third at 7-under, ruefully recalling a tugged drive at the 17th that found water, a dropped stroke that cost a share of second place. “Tomorrow I have a chance,” he said, “provided I can control my head game.”        

Day 2 – Karl Vilips stays on top in Boys, Somi Lee takes over Girls lead

Dec 28, 2016: On a virtually windless day overnight leader, 15-year old Australian Karl Vilips, added a smooth 67 to his opening-day 65, racing to a five-stroke lead at 10-under par.

In the Girls Division, with a two-day total of 137, South Korea’s 17-year old Somi Lee overtook France’s Agathe Laisne, who added 72 to her opening 67. Canada’s Monet Chun (68, 73) and Mexico’s Ana Laura Collado (69, 72) are tied third, 12-year old US phenom Alexa Pano posting 71 for a share 5th place.

Lee became interested in golf at age 7, when PGA Tour star K.J. Choi offered golf classes at her school and she was quickly hooked. “I immediately liked the discipline of the game,” she said through a translator. Over time she has become one of her country’s most talented amateurs, winning a national tournament for her spot at the Junior Orange Bowl.

“Today I wasn’t as sharp on the greens as I would like,’ she explained. “I missed a lot of birdie chances, by just an edge on several. I need to improve on that but otherwise I’m happy with the way I’ve performed so far.”

Agate was also pleased that she was able to recover from a poor start. “I don’t know what or why, maybe because the sun was really hot, but I felt tired at the beginning, not sharp, and after seven holes I was three-over. But somehow I was able to switch on some concentration and finish strong.” Birdies at both back-nine par fives help cement that recovery.

Again Vilips made simple work of a less-than-easy golf course. Starting at 10th with a birdie, pitching to tap-in distance, he held steady for that nine, then pounced on three more birdies on the shorter front side. “I could have putted better, but it was a fair round, nothing too much went wrong. No eagles like yesterday, but my driving was fine, and I had good flight control.”

Chile’s Joaquin Neumann, the 2014 winner, complied a solid 1-under par 70, marred only by a double-bogey at the par- 12th, moving him into a second-place tie with 16-year old Argentine Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira. “I had a good driving day and my long iron play was accurate, so I was able to make a lot of chances,” the Argentine Junior Champion said, disappointed only by a short putt missed at his 17th hole.

USA’s Brian Tech’s 67, highlighted by an eagle 3 at the final hole, tied Vilips for low round of the day.


Australia’s Karl Vilips leads Boys, France’s Agathe Laisne ahead in Girls

CORAL GABLES, Dec 27: Under sunny South Florida skies on a relatively windless day, 23 players carded par or better, the Boys Division led by Australia’s Karl Vilips with a 6-under par 65.

France’s Agathe Laisne leads the Girls, her 4-under 67 a stroke ahead of a second-place tie between Somi Lee from South Korea and Canada’s Monet Chun, Mexico’s Ana Laura Collado in close pursuit on 69.

Of the two previous Boys champions in the field, the 2014 winner, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, posted 67 for outright second place, outdueling defending champion, Norwegian Kristoffer Reitan, who returned a 1-under par 70.      

“He makes it look easy,” one of Vilips playing companions quipped, and the 15-year old who originally hails from Perth, Australia but is now being schooled in Wesley Chapel, Florida, confirmed it was, in fact, a relatively stress free round — with a couple of good breaks.

“I eagled the first hole, the par five, and on the back-nine I holed a 60-degree wedge for another (eagle) three at the 15th,” Vilips said. “So for the most part there was no real pressure. But a couple of strokes did get away. I was 60 yards from the green with my drive at the 7th but over-flew the green and made bogey. And on the 17th, I thought there was some break on a very short putt that I lipped out.”

Neimann, now 18 and considerably longer from the tee than when he won the title two years ago, considered the course played easy, less wind than usual and mostly soft pin positions. “It was good to get off to this sort of start,” he commented. “I expect it will get tougher as the week goes on.”  Asked if he viewed this year as a challenge of champions, the young Chilean said, “Mostly I want this week to be fun. Of course, it would be more fun to win again.”

Last year Agathe Laisne posted even-par four-day total of 284 for a share of second place. This time around, as a taller, more powerful striker, the 17-year old from Boulogne has eyes on the main prize.

Starting from 10th tee, she birdied four of her first six holes, a card with just one bogey all day. “I putted in from off the green for an opening birdie and holed a sand shot on my 4th hole,” she said, “and my only bogey was at the 18th, my 9th, where I drove into a fairway bunker.”    

In his record-tying 5th consecutive JOBI appearance, Providence, Rhode Island’s Will Dickson scored an ever-par 71.