Past Junior PGA Champions, participants, making mark in professional golf

Alexis Thompson
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Alexis Thompson is one of the many past Junior PGA Champions or participants who is making a name for herself in professional golf.
PGA of America

Series: PGA Feature

Published: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | 11:35 a.m.

The list of past participants in the Junior PGA Championship presented by Under Armour and Heritage F.S.E. is a who's who of professional golf.

From Christie Kerr and Michelle Wie on the women's side, to Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods on the men's side, there is no shortage of great names that have competed for the Patty Berg and Jack Nicklaus trophies.

Of the players who have captured those prestigious titles, few are making a bigger impact on the game of golf recently then 2007 Champions Chris DeForest and Alexis Thompson.

Thompson, of Coral Springs, Fla., became the youngest champion in the history of the Championship, defeating Kimberly Kim, the 2006 Women's U.S. Amateur Champion, in an epic battle on the back nine of the final round.

Chris DeForest of Cottekill, N.Y., ran away with the boys' title, winning by an impressive five-stroke margin. That year, he fell just three-strokes shy of the 72-hole scoring record established by Pat Perez in 1993.

Thompson went on to capture a second Junior PGA Championship title in 2009, winning by an impressive 12-stroke margin. She also captured the 2008 United States Girls' Junior Championship, among a series of other amateur accomplishments.

Now, the 16-year-old is looking to make an impact in the professional ranks.

In 2010, she tied for second in the Evian Masters, tied for 10th in the U.S. Women's Open and tied for 16th in the Navistar LPGA Classic.

And just a few weeks ago, the LPGA accepted Thompson's petition for membership in 2012, which allows Thompson to enter Q-School and, should she earn her card, become a tour member.

DeForest, a recent University of Illinois graduate, broke multiple records in the Junior PGA Championship including sharing the lowest first round score (65) and 36-hole -total (133), while holding the 54-hole-total (200) by two strokes.

"I really looked forward to the Junior PGA Championship each year and especially in 2007," said DeForest. "It was my last junior tournament before college and I wanted to go out with a bang, and I did."

DeForest has also been making his mark and playing well recently. In 2011, he qualified for the U.S. Open and placed 13th at the NCAA Championship. He was also named to the All-Big Ten First-Team for the 2008-'09 and '09-'10 seasons and finished second in career wins at Illinois to PGA Tour veteran Steve Stricker.

"I really learned a lot while playing junior golf and events like the Junior PGA Championship, which helped in my career at the University of Illinois," said DeForest. "You learn a great deal at each level, junior, amateur and now professionally, and I was able to play well in college because of that early preparation. I hope to carry what I learned in college now to the professional game."

He is also the son of John DeForest, PGA head Professional at Rondout Golf Club in Accord, N.Y.

"It has been awesome to see how far Chris has progressed in the past few years," said John. "I was able to caddy for him at the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club and that was unbelievable."

DeForest, a recent University of Illinois graduate, broke multiple records in the Junior PGA Championship including sharing the lowest first round score (65) and 36-hole -total (133), while holding the 54-hole-total (200) by two strokes.

"Chris has been playing some events since turning professional and getting ready for Qualifying School," said DeForest. "We are very proud of him and looking forward to seeing what the future holds."

While both players will look to make their mark in professional golf, they will undoubtedly look back on the Junior PGA Championship as a stepping-stone in their career.

36th Junior PGA Championship presented by Under Armour and Heritag F.S.E
From Aug. 2-5, a 156-player field will descend upon Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind., for the second consecutive year.

This year's field includes past winners of the Championship, PGA Junior Series event champions, PGA Section winners, many of Polo Golf and Golfweek's top-ranked players, and selected national junior tournament winners.

Golf Channel will present a one-hour highlight show of the 36th Junior PGA Championship, with the first airing on Tues., Sept. 14 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Begun in 1976, the Junior PGA Championship has traditionally produced unforgettable golf performances and brings together the best junior golfers from around the country to compete for the Jack Nicklaus Trophy in the Boys' division and the Patty Berg Trophy in the Girls' division.

The PGA of America
Celebrating its 95th year, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission of its founders: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf.

By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in a multi-billion dollar golf industry.

By creating and delivering dramatic world-class championships and exciting and enjoyable promotions that are viewed as the best of their class in the golf industry, The PGA of America elevates the public's interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. The PGA of America brand represents the very best in golf.