SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ.--Between women's and men's NCAA Championships, I took a side trip to the valley of the sun for the AJGA's Thunderbird International Junior. It was my first time at the event, and lets just say, not many amateur tournaments are run any better.
Aside from an entertaining finish on the boys' side--five players were either tied for the lead or one off the pace with two holes left before Hyun Soek Lim made birdie on the 18th to claim the title and joined girls' winner Jessica Wallace as tourney champions--I got a chance to catch up with some of the top junior players.
Looking at the players in the field, I'm not surprised to see the trend of early verbal college commitments that I wrote about last summer continues. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. By my count six of the 14 boys from the Class of 2009 playing at Grayhawk GC already have committed to schools and four of 10 on the girls' side.
Thankfully I found one voice of reason. "It's stupid," said Lindy Duncan, a 17-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has narrowed down her choices to Florida, Central Florida, Duke and Auburn but says she isn't likely to make a choice until later in the summer. "You should take your time. You don't want to end up someplace where you don't feel comfortable just because you feel you had to make a decision."
The problem, however, is that it's almost become expected that players will commit sometime in the spring of their junior year, if not before then.
"When someone is playing well, they don't want to risk [losing a scholarship offer]. The coaches might always change their mind," said Tiffany Lua, the tournament runner-up, who made her verbal to UCLA a full 17 months before she'll graduate from college. "I think it's a rule they're going to have to change because people are committing way too early."
Don't count on it, though.