Many of the top junior girls in the world will compete this week at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course in Fort Wayne, Ind., for the 65th U.S. Junior Girls Championship. The field features competitors from 12 countries and 31 states, ranging from ages 12 to 17.
Of the 156 championship competitors in the field, 94 are competing in the event for their first time. Of the returning players, the biggest name is Minkee Lee, the 17-year-old Australian and the defending champion. Lee enters this week’s tournament tough, with wins in the Australian Women’s Amateur, Australian Girls’ Amateur and Western Australian Amateur so far this year.
Previous winners of the prestigious tournament include Nancy Lopez, Laurie Rinker, In-Bee Park and Alexis Thompson. This is the fifth straight year that the Nicklaus-designed gem at Sycamore Hills is playing host to a national championship.
“I consider it an honor that Sycamore Hills is hosting the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship,” Nicklaus said. “I think the girls will enjoy it. It’s a good golf course and a good test of golf. I think the players will really love it. This is a great event.”
The former estate of a prominent Fort Wayne family served as a great foundation for what has become an elite golf club. The USGA conducted the Women’s State Team Championship at Sycamore Hills in 2009 and the PGA Junior Championship was staged at the club the past couple of years. In five weeks, the Hotel Fitness Championship, part of the new Web.com Tour Finals, will be at Sycamore Hills, helping determine who gets their PGA Tour cards for 2014.
“In my opinion, Sycamore Hills is one of the finest sites we’ve ever had the opportunity on which to design a golf course,” Nicklaus said. “I know Jim Kelley says that I tell all the owners that, but Sycamore Hills truly is a very, very fine site. It has gorgeous trees, great movement of property, and it had some existing lakes that really functioned quite well. The site had a little river moving through the property, which really afforded a lot of opportunities to create different shots. We had the opportunity to create a very diverse set of holes for Sycamore Hills.”
Sycamore Hills sits on rolling topography featuring tall sycamores, burr oak and spruce. The narrow Aboite River gently flows throughout the layout. The design is marked by generous fairways, peninsula greens and an abundance of sandy waste areas. The design opened in 1989, and in addition to its elite tournament history, the course consistently ranks well. Golf Digest included Sycamore Hills among its “America’s Top 100 Courses” in 2011-12. The course also ranked among Indiana’s top-five venues in Golf Digest’s Best In State rankings for 2013-14.
“We have a championship-caliber course here at Sycamore Hills,” USGA representative Donna Mummert said. “We’re not looking to make significant changes to the golf course, but we really want to make it really pop and shine for the championship. When you hear about USGA championships and the ‘agronomic setup,’ you may recall hearing ‘firm and fast.’ That concept will apply here, with the cooperation of the weather.”
Admission—and a great chance to see high-quality golf—to the Girls’ Junior is free. Scoring is available at www.usga.org.