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By USGA
July 24, 2014

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Six years later the memories are a bit fuzzy for Samantha Wagner, but then again she was only 11 years old when she qualified to play in the 2008 U.S Girls’ Junior Championship, the second youngest ever to do so.

“It was kind of surreal for me,” she said. “I don’t remember much about the golf except for having to hit a driver on one par 3.  I also got to see Lexi Thompson (who won the championship) up close. But I really just remember going there and having so much fun embracing it all.”

This week at Forest Highlands Golf Club, the 17-year-old, who has committed to the University of Florida,  is playing in her fourth and final Girls’ Junior. In Wednesday’s first round of match play, she dispatched Brynn Walker, 7 and 5.

“I came home from the Player’s Dinner Sunday night and just got so sad thinking this is the last year. I’m getting old,” she laughed.

Was Wagner, who shot in the 80s and missed the cut at The Hartford Club in Connecticut, truly ready to play in a national championship in 2008? Looking back now her mother Amy isn’t so sure.

“It was fun and a novelty for her to be there,” she said. “But as her game grew and she’s done other things, we wondered if maybe it didn’t give her too much too soon. It set very high expectations for her even though she loved it.”

“I remember when she came out of the locker room at Hartford crying after she missed the cut. All of a sudden it hit her and it was a moment of, ‘Oh my God, I just played in a national championship at 11 years old.’ ”

In fact, Wagner would not qualify for the Girls’ Junior the following two years. She did, however, as a 14-year-old, but accepted an invitation from the LPGA Tour to play on the Evian Masters Junior Cup team event in France the same week..

“She said, 'well you can’t go to France every day',” recalled Amy of her daughter’s choice. “It was a valuable experience because it brought the Girls’ Junior back into play when it was naturally time, which I think is 14 or 15 years old, not so much 11 years old. So when she was at Lake Merced [Golf Club in Daly City, Calif.] in 2012, it was almost like she hadn’t been to one before. It was a whole new experience. Her memory had dimmed from four years before.”

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