SAN DIEGO – Six-year old St. George native Trey Amico will compete this coming week after receiving his second consecutive invitation to participate in the IMG Academy Junior Golf World Championships. Amico made history at the Championships last year when he was officially declared the youngest to ever compete, edging out Tiger Woods, who had previously held the distinction.
The Junior World Golf Championships has been hosted by the San Diego County Junior Golf Association since 1968. In its inaugural tournament, 475 juniors participated from seven countries and 20 states. This year, the tournament has grown to 1,200 participants representing 56 countries and 42 states. Junior golfers in the five divisions for ages 7-18 must qualify to enter the World Championships. Players aged 6 and under do not have to qualify, but must submit a player profile outlining prior tournament experience to receive an invitation. Past champions include Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Ernie Els, Corey Pavin and David Toms.
Amico is one of seven juniors returning in his age bracket to compete this year. Fifteen of his competitors from last year are competing in the next age division, including the top five scores last year. The top returning competitor from Amico’s age division is ZeYi Xiao from China, who finished tied for seventh. Amico finished 32nd.
The participants will walk in the opening ceremonies on Sunday. Players from around the world will walk with their nation’s flag as their national anthem is played. Golfers from the USA will walk with their state’s flag. Trey competes regularly in six-hole tournaments where carts are allowed. This week he will have to walk the entire 18-hole set for three consecutive days.
Amico is coached by his grandfather, professional golfer Jay Don Blake. Blake is excited about Trey’s improvement this past year.
“Trey is not used to 18-hole courses,” he said.”Last year he began to lose focus around hole 12 or 13. His biggest improvement has come in both his swing and his focus. He is a lot stronger, but more importantly he is able to stay focused longer, which is difficult for someone that young.”
At younger ages, physical development is more rapid over a year’s time.
“He was a lot smaller last year and had to lengthen his back swing to get more power,” Blake said. “He no longer has to compensate for that. He has a better chest turn. His swing is much smoother and he is hitting the ball farther with less effort.”
Transversely, the growth has had a slightly negative effect on his mid-range game.
“Last year, the best part of his game was chipping and putting,” said Blake. “With the growth in his power, he has had to adjust his calculations on how far he hits the ball with his irons. Pinpointing how far the ball travels now has taken some adjustments and he has not quite perfected that yet. He has a good understanding for the game at such a young age, though. He knows which club to use or when a shot only requires a 90-percent swing.”
Trey will get a first hard look at this international field in the opening round on Tuesday. He is in the final grouping of the day and will play with Yul Koh from South Korea and Kaleo Satele from America Samoa. Their opening tee time is at 9:40 a.m. Pacific Time. In the second round, he will tee it up alongside Bento Assis, another returning invitee from Brazil.
Amico has also qualified for and will be competing in the US Kids World Championships at Pinehurst (North Carolina) Aug. 3-5. The Pinehurst field for his age division is much larger. The top 40 players in the United States and the top 40 international players are invited to compete. Junior golfers earn their world rankings from local, regional, and national events across the world put on by US Kids golf. This year will be Amico’s first appearance at Pinehurst.
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