Jackson Koivun (Chapel Hill, N.C.), America’s No. 1 ranked junior boy, and Myrtle Beach’s Madison Messimer played superlative rounds of golf to take opening day leads at the Eighth Annual Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship presented by LA Golf Friday at TPC Myrtle Beach.
On a sunny but windy day, Messimer shot a 4-under par 68, highlighted by a 31 on the opening nine. She made the first of four consecutive birdies on No. 4, a string interrupted by a par on No. 8, before she made yet another birdie on the difficult par-4 ninth hole.
Messimer will take a four-shot lead into Saturday’s second round, a margin that would be even greater if not for a double bogey on the par-5 18th. She was the only girl to break par on a day when the girls scoring average was 77.48.
Alice Ziyi Zhao (Irvine, Calif.) is four shots back after shooting an even par 72. Chloe Kovelesky (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Anna Song (Los Angeles, Calif.) are tied for third after shooting 73.
Koivun made eight birdies en route to posting a five-under-par 67, giving him a one-stroke lead over Maxmilian Jelinek (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) and Jack Turner (Orlando, Fla.). Ethan Paschal (Fayetteville, N.C.), Kristoffer Kuvaas (Houston, Texas) and Henry Guan (Irving, Texas) trail by only two strokes after shooting 69 in a more tightly grouped boys field.
Koivun birdied four of his first six holes and shot 32 on the front. After making bogey on No. 17, a treacherous par 3, he closed with birdie on the 18th to stake himself to the lead heading into the second round.
Forty of the tournament’s 54 boys are ranked among America’s top 100 juniors by either Golfweek or Junior Golf Scoreboard (JGS), while 28 of the 36 girls are top 100 players.
The boys field is headlined by Jackson Koivun (Chapel Hill, N.C.), an Auburn signee who is the nation’s No. 1 junior, according to Junior Golf Scoreboard, and fourth-ranked Nicholas Gross (Downingtown, Pa.).
Anna Davis (Spring Valley, Calif.), who won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and is the ninth ranked junior in the world, headlines the girls field, along with Macy Pate (Winston-Salem, N.C.), Golfweek’s 15th ranked junior and a Wake Forest signee.
New to this year’s tournament is a co-ed team event, designed to mirror the type of competition players will enjoy at the collegiate level.
With the support of Johnson, the top-ranked golfer in the world in each of five years from 2017 to 2021, 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 – Michael Brennan (Wake Forest), 2019 – Akshay Bhatia, 2020 – Tyler Wilkes (Florida), 2021 – Nicholas Dunlap, 2022 – Ben James (Virginia). The previous girls winners are: 2016 – Delaney Shah (Louisville), 2017 – Skylar Thompson (Ohio State), 2018, 2019 – Alex Pano, 2020 – Taylor Roberts (Florida State), 2021 – Jacqueline Putrino, 2022 – Katie Cranston (Auburn).
Johnson’s involvement with the tournament reflects his longtime 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 is being sponsored by Founders Group International, the Dustin Johnson Golf School, and Golf Tourism Solutions.