By Chad Sullivan
The world’s top junior golfers are set to square off Feb. 28 – March 1, 2020 at the 5th Annual Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship at TPC Myrtle Beach.
The event annually showcases the cream of the crop in junior golf. In 2019, top-ranked boys junior golfer Akshay Bhatia took home the title in what would be the final junior event of his amateur career. Since his 2019 victory, Bhatia has turned professional and the junior golf phenom is making a run at earning his PGA TOUR card in 2020.
With past fields representing as many as 35 states and 12 countries, the strength of the 2020 edition of the Dustin Johnson World Junior once more reflects a formidable worldwide base of contenders.
2018 Boys Champion Michael Brennan returns in search of his second Dustin Johnson World Junior title. Two years ago, Brennan gave the crowds at the 18th Hole at TPC Myrtle Beach a wild show (pictured, above), walking in a brilliant eagle to secure his two-shot victory over Bhatia. The Wake Forest signee is sure to be in the mix come Sunday’s final round, and having sealed the deal before, Brennan brings a little extra confidence that could make all the difference down the stretch this year.
2019 runner-up finisher Luke Clanton returns for his second appearance; Clanton, a high school sophomore from Miami Lakes, Florida, is ranked 14th in the Golfweek Junior Rankings. Last year’s third-place finisher, Tyler Wilkes, returns in his quest to close the deal next month, coming off recent strong performances including a win at the AJGA at Saddlebrook last summer. Kelly Chinn, a verbal commit to Duke University, is set to make his first appearance in Myrtle Beach coming off a win at the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions.
The international field will be strong in 2020. The European contingent is represented particularly well by a quintet of Swedish players. The boys field will see Wilmer Edero, ranked #5 in the European Golf Rankings (EGR) for 18U, who finished 2nd in the U16 at the R&A Boys Amateur last summer. Joining him are fellow Swedish countrymen Algot Kleen (#11 in EGR 18U), Rasmus Jonasson, Hugo Thyr and Viggo Ohrn. Spaniard Pablo Ereno rounds out a stellar European delegation.
The boys’ field has two additional returning players that had many doing a double take as they walked the course last year. David Ford and Maxwell Ford, identical twin brothers from Georgia, return in 2020 as two of the highest-rated junior boys in the country. The Golfweek Junior Boys Rankings currently have Maxwell at No. 13 after a recent win at the Jones Cup Junior Invitational, and David at No. 20. We wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of the Ford brothers playing in the final group of the final round.
On the girls’ side, in 2019 the crowds were treated to the event’s first two-time and first back-to-back champion in Alexa Pano. Pano defended her 2018 title by breaking her own girl’s tournament scoring record with a 7-under 209 last year. Pano is set to return for a shot at the three-peat, and headlines a very strong girls’ field in 2020. Keep an eye on another event veteran, Arizona native Ashley Menne. The Arizona State University commit shined in her 2018 appearance, grabbing a runner-up finish with a solid performance. Another contender is Sophia Bae, a New Jersey high school junior and a verbal commit to Duke University making her first appearance at this event. Currently ranked 13th in the Golfweek Junior Girls Rankings, look for Bae to challenge for the top spot on the leaderboard in 2020.
Tournament officials expect 75 of 90 participants to be ranked in the top 100 of a national or international junior golf ranking service. Applications are still being accepted and are due by January 7, with the full tournament field being revealed January 8. Visit the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship website to apply and learn more.