March 3, 2020
The ANA Inspiration, golf’s first major championship of the season, hosts the ANA Junior Inspiration to offer 48 of the top junior golfers from around the world a chance to compete for a dream ticket to play in the ANA Inspiration.
The 54-hole junior tournament will provide the winner an amateur exemption into the ANA Inspiration. The junior event will be hosted the week before the ANA Inspiration from March 26-29, 2020, at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
ANA Junior Inspiration, organized in partnership between the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) – Japan’s largest 5-star airline, will challenge 48 AJGA golfers invited through the Rolex AJGA Rankings and ANA Priority Miles Points system. The three-round tournament will host the first 36 holes on the Pete Dye Challenge Course. During the final round, the juniors will compete on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. Each pairing will feature one LPGA past Champion and two juniors. Juniors will compete for an overall stroke-play title while the 24 LPGA past Champions battle in a best-ball format.
“Inspiring the next generation of professional golfers and leaders is our focus around the ANA Junior Inspiration every year. As the official airline of the LPGA and title sponsor of the first golf major of the year, we look forward to pairing the amazing 48 juniors with legends of the game during the weekend prior to the ANA Inspiration,” said Shigeru Hattori, Senior Vice President of the Americas, ANA. “It is important for us to remind all of the participants that they are leaders in their schools and hometowns. We hope their time in Rancho Mirage at the ANA Junior Inspiration is a fun and educational experience in which they can take learnings home with them to inspire their teammates and younger golfers who hope to one day follow in their footsteps.”
About the ANA Junior Inspiration Field
The all-girls tournament field earned entry into the ANA Junior Inspiration through ANA Priority Mileage Points Standings and the Rolex AJGA Rankings. Top qualifiers from ANA’s 11 North American Gateway Cities of Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York City, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington D.C. will also compete. Each Gateway City Qualifier chose a state or local golf association to receive a Gateway City Grant on behalf of ANA. In 2020, the Los Angeles Gateway City Grant was retitled the “Founder’s Grant”, with all donations benefitting the Southern California Junior Golf Association (SCGA) to honor its support of the event since the inception of the ANA Junior Inspiration. Since the event’s launch in 2017, a total of $220,000 in ANA Gateway City Grants have funded 25 state and local golf organizations to help inspire young golfers and support the growth of the game.
The AJGA and ANA also extended invitations to seven international juniors from Belgium, United Kingdom, South Korea, Philippines, France, and China. The seventh international exemption will be determined in the coming weeks. In total, representatives from 10 foreign countries and 15 U.S. states are set to compete at one of the LPGA’s most iconic venues.
The 2020 competition brings together one of the strongest fields in junior golf as 13 of the top 20 girls in the Rolex AJGA Rankings will compete. Two past champions of the ANA Junior Inspiration headline the field: 2019 champion Xin (Cindy) Kou of Whittier, Calif., and 2018 champion, and 2019 Rolex Junior Player of the Year, Rose Zhang of Irvine, Calif.
Kou is verbally committed to play college golf at the University of Southern California. She is currently T12 on the all-time AJGA wins list with nine, including a second Invitational win at the 2018 AJGA Junior All-Star Invitational at Reynolds Lake Oconee. Kou will make her 2020 season debut at the ANA Junior Inspiration.
Zhang, No. 1 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings for more than 53 weeks, has eight national junior golf wins. She is No. 8 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. After her jump in Poppie’s Pond with LPGA past Champion Patty Sheehan in 2018, Zhang made the cut in her professional debut. Zhang will compete in her fourth ANA Junior Inspiration and second ANA Inspiration as one of six announced amateur exemptions.
“The ANA Inspiration and ANA Junior Inspiration are where I really allowed myself to improve as a person and as a player,” Zhang said. “Winning in 2018 and getting to jump in Poppie’s Pond with Patty Sheehan is definitely one of the best moments in my junior golf career and it will always be memorable to me.”
All five ANA Inspiration exemptions are standout amateurs and four of the five have AJGA ties:
- Kaitlyn Papp of Austin, Texas – Five-time Rolex Junior All-American and No. 11 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, junior at the University of Texas
- Gabriela Ruffles of Victoria, Australia – Reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur and North and South Amateur champion, junior at the University of Southern California
- Olivia Mehaffey of Belfast, Ireland – Represented Great Britain & Ireland to win the 2019 Astor Trophy and No. 10 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, senior at Arizona State University
- Angelina (Lei) Ye of Bradenton, Florida – No. 24 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, member of the Chinese National Team and 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior Champion, freshman at Stanford
The 2020 ANA Junior Inspiration field is highlighted by 23 Rolex Junior All-Americans and 32 AJGA champions. Of the 48 total girls competing, 32 players have committed to play college golf. The final ANA Inspiration amateur exemption will be awarded to the champion of the ANA Junior Inspiration.
“The AJGA is extremely proud to partner with ANA to continue offering this incredible opportunity to the top female golfers in the world,” said AJGA Executive Director, Stephen Hamblin. “The ANA Junior Inspiration’s connection to the ANA Inspiration showcases the legacy of the game by combining the past, present and future of women’s golf on the same course as golf’s first major.”
The ANA Junior Inspiration is the only event of its kind in the world of junior golf and was created to help young careers take off and reach new heights. From the 2019 ANA Junior Inspiration, 16 of the field’s 17 graduating seniors are currently playing college golf including Trinity King of Arlington, Texas. King, a 2018 Rolex Junior All-American with six top-five finishes, ended her junior golf career at the 2019 ANA Junior Inspiration before enrolling at Texas Christian University.
“I am so thankful for every opportunity the AJGA has given me,” King said. “The ANA Junior Inspiration was unlike any other tournament. I really got to test my skills on a major championship golf course. Competing at the same venue as golf’s first major of the year is something I will never forget. Playing alongside an LPGA past Champion helped me learn so many things about myself and this sport that I have continued to use all through college.”
Prior to its association with the AJGA in 2017, the ANA Junior Inspiration operated as an 18-hole qualifier for Southern California-based juniors to earn a spot into the major championship field. The Southern California Golf Association (SCGA), Fresh & Easy and ANA Inspiration champion Amy Alcott worked together to lay the foundation for this game-changing girls’ tournament.
Past champions of the ANA Junior Inspiration include an AJGA all-star cast: Angel Yin (2013), Lilia Vu (2014), Haley Moore (2015), 2014 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Andrea Lee (2016), Lucy Li (2017), Zhang (2018) and Xin (Cindy) Kou (2019).