Back in my junior golf days, I always looked forward to the Junior World Golf Championships. In fact, it was my favorite tournament and held at my favorite golf course, Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA. I had to play in a 36-hole local qualifier to vie for the few spots allotted to each area. I qualified for the event in 1999 and 2000. The girls played the North Course and the boys played the South – home of the Buick Invitational and the 2008 US Open.
Junior World was such a great tournament because of its international aspect — it was a strong field consisting of the best international and national players. The pairings were always diverse for at least the first two rounds. It was fun to play with girls from other countries such as Ecuador, Argentina and the Philippines. I had some of the best experiences during those rounds because I got to learn about the golf culture – so to speak – in their countries.
Back to Torrey Pines. I haven’t played there in almost ten years, but I actually remember the layout quite well. The ocean, views, and seaside cliffs are simply breathtaking. Holes 5, 6 and 7 on the North Course are probably the most well known. The North isn’t considered as challenging as the South, but trust me, it wasn’t easy. The setup was difficult for the tournament, and gusty winds are always in play. There are also a ton of elevation changes and undulations in the fairway. My favorite hole is the 6th, a par 3 overlooking the ocean. It’s considered the “Torrey Pines Golf Course signature hole.” It’s beautiful yet visually intimidating. There’s a very sharp downhill elevation change and the green is guarded by bunkers. And it’s especially windy because it’s alongside the ocean.
The 2008 US Open was held at Torrey Pines on the South Course — one that is still very fresh in our memory. Tiger Woods won his third US Open with his injured knee and essentially limped his way to victory. He beat Rocco Mediate in a dramatic 18-hole playoff. After the tournament, Tiger missed the remainder of the season to undergo knee surgery.
I haven’t returned to Torrey Pines since Junior World in 2000. But a golf trip to San Diego just might come up in the near future.