Maxwell Ford (Peachtree Corners, Ga.) fired a bogey-free 68 to lead the boys field and a pair of girls are tied atop the leaderboard after the first round of the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship Presented by Fujikura at TPC Myrtle Beach.
Luke Clanton (Miami Lakes, Fl.) led much of the day before an 18th-hole bogey dropped him to second, one stroke back. Ford, a University of Georgia signee, was 1-under through 11 holes before catching fire. He birdied three of the next four holes to seize the lead heading into Round 2.
Brendan Valdes (Orlando, Fla.), an Auburn signee and the nation’s sixth-ranked junior boy, is two strokes back in third place.
Gianna Clemente (Warren, Ohio) and Catherine Park (Irvine, Calif) shot matching 2-under-par 70s to tie for the lead in the girls tournament, three strokes clear of third place Andie Smith (Hobe Sound, Fla.), who shot 73.
Just a seventh grader, Clemente played the front nine in 2-under, part of a four-birdie round that saw her at or near the top of the leaderboard all day. Park’s round was powered by a stretch that saw her birdie holes seven, 11 and 12.
Smith made a round-high five birdies but six bogies prevented her from making a sustained charge.
A 54-hole, college-style event, the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship features boys and girls tournaments and the 90-player field (60 boys, 30 girls) includes 74 top-100 juniors.
Forty-nine of the 60 boys are ranked among America’s top 100 juniors, including Auburn signee Brendan Valdes (Orlando, Fl.), who is No, 6, according to Golfweek magazine.
Twenty-five of the 30 girls competing are ranked among America’s top 100 juniors by either Golfweek or Junior Golf Scoreboard, a group led by No. 3 Hyo Joon Jang (Howey in the Hills, Fl.).
With the support of Johnson, the top-ranked golfer in the world, the tournament provides players a PGA TOUR-like experience and the opportunity to test themselves against some of the game’s best juniors.
A significant part of the event’s appeal is TPC Myrtle Beach, one of the Grand Strand’s most decorated layouts. TPC Myrtle Beach has hosted the Senior PGA Tour Championship and been ranked among “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses” by Golf Digest, making it an ideal venue to test golf’s rising young stars.
The event’s past boys champions are: 2016 – Blake Taylor (East Carolina), 2017 – Trent Phillips (Georgia), 2018 – Brennan, 2019 – Akshay Bhatia, and 2020 – Tyler Wilkes (Florida). The previous girls winners are: 2016 – Delaney Shah (Louisville), 2017 – Skylar Thompson (Ohio State), 2018-2019 – Alex Pano, 2020 – Taylor Roberts (Florida State).
Johnson’s involvement with the tournament reflects his long-time commitment to junior golf, particularly in South Carolina, where he grew into one of the world’s best players. Through the Dustin Johnson Foundation, which is headquartered in Myrtle Beach, Johnson has donated more than $500,000 to junior golf, sponsoring numerous events throughout the state and helping cover entry costs for kids who need financial assistance.
The Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship Presented by Fujikura is also being sponsored by Founders Group International, the Dustin Johnson Golf School, and Golf Tourism Solutions.