The Greatest Feat in Junior Golf Asia
The Junior Golf Tour of Asia’s season has come to an end and the recipients of the JGTA’s top awards were announced, following the conclusion of the Tour’s final event on the 2018-2019 schedule, the ATI Ciputra Golfpreneur Junior World 2019 presented by AKI.
Comprised of 132 of the region’s elite juniors golfers from 19 countries, the event was held at Damai Indah Golf’s PIK course in Jakarta, Indonesia and was highlighted by fierce competition throughout the week, in the juniors’ final opportunity to move up the rankings on the Junior Order of Merit – the official ranking of the JGTA and the source for American Junior Golf Association PBE Status in the Asia-Pacific region – in pursuit of valuable AJGA PBE Status awarded by the JGTA to a total of 60 players each season. Taking home the trophies in the JGTA Divisions were Kentaro Nanayama (2021) of Jakarta, Indonesia (also taking home the Boys Overall Trophy) and Natachanok Tunwannarux (2023) of Bangkok, Thailand. With their wins, Nanayama and Tunwannarux are forever etched in JGTA history as the first two-time JGTA Champions.
Finishing at the very top of their divisions on the Junior Order of Merit this season were Pongsapak Laopakdee (2023) of Rayong, Thailand and Amy Gao (2021) of Shanghai, China, each crowned Player of the Year and Junior Order of Merit Champion in the boys and girls divisions, respectively.
Pongsapak Laopakdee (2023) of Rayong, Thailand made his 2018-2019 JGTA season debut at the JGTA Bogor Junior Championship hosted by Sentul Highlands Golf Club. Laopakdee came out of the gate hot, firing a 4-under-par score of 68. He sat tied for the lead heading into moving day but struggled in rounds two and three, still managing to finish in second place at the event. Laopakdee entered the Hong Kong Junior Classic at Clearwater Bay a favourite to win. He shot a first-round score of 1-under 69 and due to a fog cancellation of round two, entered the final round in a stalemate near the top of the leader board, with four players shooting 69 or better in round one. Laopakdees final round was steady and coming up 18, he hit his approach to 20 feet. Laopakdee drained his putt, not knowing at the time that it was for the win – launching him up the JGTA Junior Order of Merit rankings. In the ATI Ciputra Golfpreneur Junior World 2019 presented by AKI, Laopakdee once again reinforced his talents, firing 71-73-74 to finish in second place, securing his spot atop the Junior Order of Merit rankings for the 2018-2019 season.
“I feel very proud of myself because it was my target for this year to win Junior Order of Merit and Player of the Year. Thank you JGTA for all of the amazing tournaments, the staff, organizing committee, and sponsors that ran this event successfully, and my parents for always supporting me”, said Laopakdee.
Amy Gao (2021) of Shanghai, China began her 2018-2019 JGTA season at the season-opening JGTA Bintan Lagoon Junior Championship presented by Tradewinds Furnishing, where she took home the trophy. Gao made a statement with her win at Bintan Lagoon Resort, and it set the pace for her season. She followed up her win with a second place finish at the JGTA Bogor Junior Championship hosted by Sentul Highlands Golf Club. She went on to finish T21 at the Hong Kong Junior Classic at Clearwater Bay and ended the season atop the rankings.
“It was my 16th birthday when I got this news from Indonesia and it was the best birthday gift. I’m very excited! Thanks to JGTA for giving me the chance, thanks to my school, coaches, and my parents, who have been supporting me all the time”, said Gao.
Finishes from the season-ending event also determined this year’s JGTA Junior All-Asia Team, made up of the top 10 boys and top 10 girls on the Junior Order of Merit, who receive recognition for being amongst Asia’s most competitive juniors and promising future College golfers.
Players named to the Junior All-Asia Team also receive the highest AJGA PBE Status on Tour, with the top-5 boys and top-5 girls earning AJGA Fully-Exempt Status, the most sought after status in junior golf in the world, and a status they will hold for two seasons. Members of the Junior All-Asia Team who finished 6thto 10thon the Junior Order of Merit receive 12 AJGA PBE Stars for their feat, equivalent to an AJGA Junior All-Star Champion.
Boys – All-Asia Team: Pongsapak Laopakdee (2023) of Rayong, Thailand, Kentaro Nanayama (2021) of Jakarta, Indonesia, Songge Jiang (2021) of Zhangjiagang, China, Justin Sun (2022) of Shenzhen, China, Gabriel Hansel Hari (2021) of Jakarta, Indonesia, Hsiao Che Yang (2021) of Tainan, Taiwan, Jui-Tung Wu (2021) of Kaoshiung, Taiwan, Markus Lam (2023) of Hong Kong SAR, Kaijun Ma (2022) of Macau SAR, and HanZhe Zhou (2021) of Chengdu, China.
Girls – All-Asia Team: Amy Gao (2021) of Shanghai, China, Mariel Isabella Tee (2020) of Pasig City, Philippines, Eila Galitksy (2025) of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Yufei Phoebe Peng (2022) of Shenzhen, China, Ieong Sin Kuan (2020) of Macau SAR, Chloe Chan (2021) of Hong Kong SAR, Natachanok Tunwannarux (2023) of Bangkok, Thailand, Yiyang Xu (2021) of Shanghai, China, Hoi Ki Lau (2022) of Hong Kong SAR, and Yulin Chen (2021) of Guangzhou, China.
For three members of this year’s Junior All-Asia Team, Natachanok Tunwannarux, Pongsapak Laopakdee, and Amy Gao, this will mark the second time they have been named to the JGTA Junior All-Asia Team.
Those players not named to the Junior All-Asia Team but who still finished in the top 30 boys or top-30 girls on the Junior Order of Merit also earn substantial PBE Status, with those who finished 11th-20thplace earning 8 AJGA PBE Stars and 21stto 30thplace earning 4 AJGA PBE Stars.
These elite players and many other rising stars from the JGTA will be competing amongst the best in the world in AJGA tournaments this summer, using the AJGA PBE Status they earned on the Junior Golf Tour of Asia to pursue opportunities at the College golf level in the U.S.
This season has been one for the history books. From JGTA competitors making commitments to U.S. colleges such as Vanderbilt University, Columbia University, University of Richmond, and more, to Kentaro Nanayama (2021) breaking the JGTA tournament scoring record (10-under-par 206), to the first girls sudden-death playoff at The Southern Junior, the list could go on and on.
The JGTA’s 2019-2020 season will run from September until May, with tournament fields being stronger than ever.
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