RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - 11 past champions of this event are in the field this week, but they are not the only ones with experiencing jumping into Poppie’s Pond this week.
16-year-old Haley Moore earned a jump into Poppie’s Pond this summer after winning the American Junior Golf Association’s ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior by two shots after a final-round 68.
Then, Monday, she got her second triumph at Mission Hills, earning her way into the field for the ANA Inspiration by winning the ANA Inspiration Champions Junior Challenge by four strokes with a 5-under 67 on the Arnold Palmer Course at Mission Hills Country Club.
Now, she’s one of 115 in the field for professional golf’s first major. She also was able to attend the Champions Dinner on Monday night.
“I never thought I’d have the opportunity to play in the season’s first major,” Moore said. “My coach, Patricia, was an inspiration. I started to get nervous going down the final stretch and she filled my head with positive thoughts, even showing me a picture of her children to keep me relaxed. My inspirational shot of the day was a 120-yard wedge into the first, which took one hop and went in for an eagle.”
One of the neatest things about the Champions Junior Challenge besides the invitation that awaits the winner is the mentorship that comes with the event. Each group of junior players competing in the field is paired with a former ANA Inspiration champion or LPGA legend for coaching and mentoring throughout the event. Moore’s coach was 2003 ANA Inspiration champion Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, and the 2003 champ worked with Moore on the range before her round.
“We are thrilled to welcome Haley to the ANA Inspiration,” said Takashi Shiki, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Sales, CS & Products Services at All Nippon Airways. “Now that the Champions Junior Challenge is complete our week is truly underway and we are more excited than ever to host the best female golfers in the world alongside some of the game’s brightest young amateurs. Haley’s win today with the guiding support of former champion Patricia Meunier-Lebouc is already an inspiring start to the week and the start of a new era for the championship and ANA.”
The victories Amy Alcott, Karrie Webb and Juli Inkster have earned at Mission Hills are surely on a different scale, but when Moore tees off Thursday she can do so knowing she joins that trio of LPGA legends as the only players in the field with multiple wins at Mission Hills.