Stephanie Rodrigue of Lewiston tees off on the 14th hole during the Maine Women’s Amateur Golf Championship at Martindale Country Club in Auburn on July 26, 2017.  She will be competing in the AJGA Coca-Cola Championship at Sugarloaf this week.

Could a future PGA Championship champion be making his way through Maine this week?

Time will tell, but what’s for sure is that some of the top junior golfers in the North America will be making their way up to Carrabassett Valley for the sixth annual American Junior Golf Association’s Coca-Cola Championship at Sugarloaf, which runs from Monday through Thursday.

The AJGA is one of the top junior golf organization’s in the country, and its alumni include some of the biggest names in golf, such as last weekend’s PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas, as well as Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson Dustin Johnson, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel and Inbee Park.

“This tournament is an open tournament, so it’s a competitive field, this tournament is,” Jessica Hall, a tournament director for the AJGA, said. “We go off PBE status, which is performance-based entries. These players, they play in our qualifiers, in our tournaments and they earn stars for how well they do, basically. They are playing for all these stars, and the more stars they achieve, the more tournaments they can try to gain entry into.”

The AJGA holds 121 tournaments during the year across the country, mostly in the summer. Hall said the average player plays in about five tournaments per year. The Sugarloaf tournament is a popular stop on the AJGA because of the views and hospitality the course provides for the players and staff.

There will be 131 players teeing it up — 95 boys and 26 girls — ranging from 12-19 years old for the 54-hole event. Lewiston’s own Stephanie Rodrigue will be one of six Mainers in the field as local exemptions. The other Mainers taking part include Camden’s Cole Anderson who just competed in the U.S. Men’s Amateur, Anthony Burnham of Scarborough, Tom Higgins of South Portland, Austin Legge of Cape Elizabeth and Lucas Roop of Gorham.


Last year’s boys’ champion, Nicklas Staub of Boyton Beach, Florida, will return to defend his title, which he won with a score of 225. RuQing Guan of Guangzhou, China, will not be back to defend the girls title.

Rodrigue’s play this summer has earn her the exemption. Her summer includes a victory at the Brunswick Golf Club on the MSGA’s Junior Tour, a fifth-place finish in the Maine Junior Amateur and a 11th-place finish in the Maine Women’s Amateur.

The Coca-Cola Championship will be the first time she has played Sugarloaf, but she has spoken to people about the dos and don’ts to play well on the 5,678-yard (from the women’s tees) course.

“I actually have never played Sugarloaf, but I have researched online and I have talked to people who have played there,” Rodrigue said. “They have been giving me tips, tricks and all of the good stuff — where to be, where not be. I’ve been told it’s a really hard course. It’s target golf over there, you have to play conservatively, you can’t whack the ball and hope it goes anywhere. You really have to be on your game to shoot well there.”

The success of the younger players on the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour has certainly has helped grow the AJGA.

“Every year we see such an increase in our memberships. I think a lot of it has to do with Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and all of these big names that did play AJGA,” Hall said. “I think it is that and these kids seeing, ‘Oh wow, these guys are good guys, good solid guys all around athletes. Like I can do that. I can go play golf at college and potentially go on to the LPGA or the PGA.’ I think it has a lot to do with that, and this week we had a tournament where it was Jordan Spieth’s tournament at his home course in Dallas. So actually he was on site and interacted with the players. It’s cool to get players like that who are all about the kids.”

Rodrigue hopes this tournament will springboard her career in the future as this will be her first AJGA event.

“It’s definitely going to lead to more stuff,” Rodrigue said. “The thing is some of the tournaments are out-of-state and I have other tournaments in state I can’t do or my parents are working and they can’t bring me down. I am almost 18-years old, I know I am (almost) an adult, but I can’t always go to things like that without an real adult being there.”

She hopes to learn from other top golfers competing and make a new friend or two.

Cole Anderson
Camden’s Cole Anderson at the 2016 Coca-Cola Championship at Sugarloaf. He will be competing this week in the AJGA event.

Nicklas Staub
Nicklas Staub, the 2016 Coca-Cola boys’ champion with his trophy as he had a winning score of 225. The Boynton Beach, Florida native will return to Sugarloaf to defend his title this week

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