The AJGA also addresses an issue the pros could especially learn from the kids. The organization is a stickler for maintaining a good pace of play, with timing stations placed on every third hole and golfers given a red card if their group falls out of position. The first red card is a warning. If the golfers are still out of position by the next timing station, a second red card is handed out, and each player in the group is assessed a one-shot penalty.
"We averaged 4½ hours for 85 tournaments, and college golf is played in 5½ hours," says Stephen Hamblin, the executive director of the AJGA. "We have the best pace-of-play program of any organization in the world." Hamblin says about 1,500 red cards were issued last year but fewer than 30 penalty shots were assessed.
The primary mission of the AJGA is to set the juniors on a path for obtaining college scholarships, and that is another area of strength. About 35 college coaches, dressed in bright school garb, showed up for the first round of the Thunderbird to scout players representing 15 countries.
"It's not as if you come here and it's no big deal," says Spieth, who has committed to attend Texas. "It's not like, and I hate to say it, a high school tournament, no disrespect to high school golf. Without the AJGA it would be very difficult for the college coaches to find us. Every junior golfer around the country knows about the AJGA and knows that's the way to get to college. And the way to get beyond college."
Spieth, who stands 5'11", shot 69 in his opening round, moving the ball both ways, walking in 30-footers and scrambling for a difficult par from a hill above the 8th green by opening his 60-degree wedge and feathering a short pitch to five feet. (The boys played the par-72 Grayhawk layout at 7,112 yards, the girls at 6,275.) In many ways Spieth's maturity is a reflection of his home life. He is the oldest of three, including 15-year-old Steven, who at 6'5" is a budding basketball star, and nine-year-old Ellie, who is a special-needs child. When Spieth is not on the road, he helps take care of Ellie, and golf moves into the background. "Jordan has told a lot of people that one of the things he treasures is that when he comes home after he's been away, she doesn't know the relative importance of it, whether he's won, lost or not played," says Shawn Spieth. "That's how we as parents try to treat him. In the grand scheme, it's a golf tournament and it's a basketball tournament. They value that time with her, and it's a really nice opportunity to sit back and appreciate what they have."
Says Jordan, "She keeps us humble. We wouldn't have it any other way."
The Thunderbird was the start of a busy summer for Jordan. By virtue of his victory in last year's U.S. Junior, he is exempt into the U.S. Open 36-hole sectional qualifier, which is scheduled for June 7 at Germantown Country Club and Ridgeway Country Club in Memphis. He will then compete in the PGA Tour's St. Jude Classic, also in Memphis, and undoubtedly exchange text messages with his pal Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback who will compete in sectional qualifying at the Woodlands near Houston. Jordan predicted a tough road for Romo.
"I mean, he's good, but he's going up against PGA Tour players," Spieth says. "I think he'd have an easier time making the cut on the PGA Tour."
Spieth, so soon, is an authority on the subject.
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