• Spieth is second Champion Golfer of the Year to have competed in The R&A’s Junior Open.
• 14-year-old Spieth was runner-up to Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn at Hesketh in 2008.
• Current Masters champion Sergio Garcia won the inaugural Junior Open in 1994.
When Jordan Spieth lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale it was perhaps understandably overlooked that it was not the first time he had taken part in an R&A prizegiving ceremony in Southport.
By winning The 146th Open, Spieth became the second player after Rory McIlroy to have competed in the Junior Open before going on to be crowned Champion Golfer of the Year.
Spieth at the Junior Open
Founded in 1994, the Junior Open is traditionally played biennially on a nearby course shortly before The Open. Some of the world’s best players have featured in the event which features the leading boy and girl golfers under the age of 16 from each nation affiliated to The R&A.
At the age of 14 Spieth was a runner-up in the Junior Open to Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn when it was played at Hesketh ahead of The Open at Royal Birkdale in 2008. He went one better on his return to the area last month when he held off the challenge of fellow countryman Matt Kuchar to add The Open to his honours list and become the second player in history after Jack Nicklaus to win three of the four men’s major championships before his 24th birthday.
Jutanugarn makes history
Jutanugarn herself made history in 2008 becoming the first girl to win the Junior Open, pipping the now three-time major champion Spieth to the post. Fast forward to 2017 at Kingsbarns and she was looking to emulate her older sister Ariya by winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open. After three rounds, she was in contention but could not catch the eventual winner In-Kyung Kim.
One player who will have kept a keen eye on the progress of players who have succeeded in the Junior Open is Portugal’s Pedro Lencart, who won The R&A’s Boys Amateur Champion in Nairn earlier this month, defeating defending champion Falko Hanisch in the final. Just over a year before, Lencart had won the Junior Open at Kilmarnock (Barassie) on the eve of The 145th Open at Royal Troon. The 17-year-old emulated the 2016 Masters champion Sergio Garcia in winning both the Junior Open and the Boys Amateur Championship. Garcia claimed the inaugural Junior Open in 1994 and added the Boys title in 1997 at Saunton.
Garcia also went on to win The Amateur Championship in 1998 and perhaps he has laid down a marker for young Lencart.
Having come so close at Carnoustie in 2007 and contended on several occasions since then, Garcia would dearly like to achieve the ‘Open double’ and record victories in the Junior Open and The Open Championship. Perhaps a return to the Angus links in 2018 will provide the perfect opportunity for the Spaniard to complete The R&A honours list.
The Junior Open returns in 2018 and will be played on the Eden Course, St Andrews from 16-18 July during the week of The 147th Open at Carnoustie.