Tournament play a boost for Li, Tanabe
Sewickley Academy senior Jason Li and Quaker Valley senior Chris Tanabe hope to continue their golf careers in college and played in some tournaments in the spring and summer designed to do just that.
Li and Tanabe, both 17 and from Sewickley, are members of the American Junior Golf Association.
Based in Georgia, the nonprofit is for boys and girls who aspire to earn college scholarships through junior golf.
Tournaments are held year-round and feature top junior players from around the world. Players can enter up to five events and are given a Polo Golf Ranking based on their performances.
Olympic women's gold medalist Inbee Park is among alumni.
Li, the defending WPIAL individual champion, entered competitions in Florida, Kentucky and Maryland starting in March.
His best finish was in late April-early May at the Justin Thomas Junior Championship in Simpsonville, Ky., where he tied for 11th.
He planned to play one more time this year at the PDQ/Philadelphia Runner Junior on Aug. 29-31 in Bethlehem, Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Tanabe, the 2014 WPIAL champion and 2015 PIAA runner-up, competed in tournaments from April to August in Maryland twice, South Carolina and Missouri.
His best showing was a tie for 16th at the AJGA Junior at Cattail Creek in Glenwood, Md., on Aug. 1-4.
In Polo Golf Rankings as of Aug. 22, Li was 245, while Tanabe came in at 869, a 17-point improvement from last time.
American Junior Golf Association spokeswoman Roseanna Smith said the organization has more than 6,500 members a year worldwide, with 72 to 144 players typically in a tournament.
In his second year as a member, Li said the experience has been broadening.
“Any country you can think of,” he said, he's probably played someone from it.
First-year member Tanabe said participating elevated his game.
Quaker Valley coach Greg Vecchi expects Tanabe to gain confidence, while Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said Li's teammates likely will benefit, too.
Sewickley Academy hopes to repeat as WPIAL and PIAA Class AA champion this fall.
David Kuhn, Tanabe's private instructor, noticed improvement after Tanabe joined.
“AJGA events (have) helped him take his play to a higher level and catch the attention of many coaches,” Kuhn said.
Li and Tanabe are undecided about colleges.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.