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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Rising star Pano takes Ione D. Jones/Doherty ttile

   Alexa Pano, the 12-year-old from Lake Worth, Fla., keeps making a name for herself during the Orange Blossom Tour, a series long on tradition that annually draws some of the top amateur players in the country to the warmth of South Florida.
   Fresh off a tie for third in the South Atlantic Amateur Golf Championship, better known as The Sally, a couple of weeks ago, Pano won the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Championship at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. over the weekend on the 22nd hole of a hard-fought match-play final with Claire Fitzgerald.
   Pano reached the final with a 2 and 1 semifinal victory over veteran Massachusetts mid-amateur Tara Connelly-Joy. Fitzgerald, a Wisconsin recruit from Sanford, Fla., was a 4 and 3 semifinal winner over Casey Weidenfeld, a junior standout from Pembroke Pines, Fla.
   Pano was the youngest player in the field at age 11 last summer in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club. There was a lot going on that week, so it was easy to overlook Pano when she failed to make match play with rounds of 81 and 75 for a 156 total.
   In retrospect, the second-round 75 over the classic William Flynn design is a pretty darn impressive score for an 11-year-old kid. It was a big-girl golf course set up for a USGA championship.
   Less than a month later, having turned 12 in the interim, Pano was shooting 5-under 211 for 54 holes at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Weyhill Course to win the American Junior Golf Association’s PDQ/Philadelphia Runner Junior by five shots.
   Pano was described at the time as the youngest winner in AJGA history, although I think somebody dug up a win by a slightly younger Lexi Thompson since then. You get the idea, though. The kid can play.
   Apparently Pano has been a star among her fellow junior competitors for a while. In 2013, Pano was one of the youngsters featured in “The Short Game,” a documentary produced by entertainment power couple Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, certified golf nuts those two.
   Pano was filmed playing in the 7- and 8-year-old division at the 2012 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship at Pinehurst, N.C. Although she wasn’t the only competitor in the film, Pano proved to be an inspiration to junior golfers who have viewed the documentary around the world. Probably exactly what Timberlake and Biel had in mind.
   It will be interesting to see how things play out for this rising star. For the record, I’m guessing Pano will be a tough out if she decides to tee it up at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship this summer at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.

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