Reigning U.S. Junior Champion Francis
Receives PGA Tour Exemptions
January 3, 2007
By Russ Christ
Scottsdale, Ariz. - The holidays, and the PGA Tour, arrived 10
days early for 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Philip
The 18 year old has been deciding whether to accept
sponsor's exemptions that will allow him to compete in two,
and possibly three, PGA Tour events in 2007. Two offers
have been confirmed; the third is a verbal invitation that is
likely to become official this month.
Francis, who signed a letter of intent in November to play at
UCLA this fall, is expected to compete in the FedEx St. Jude
Classic in Memphis (May 25-28). A second sponsor's exemption
arrived Dec. 15 via fax from representatives of the U.S. Bank
Championship in Milwaukee. That Tour event, formerly known as the
Greater Milwaukee Open, is July 27-30.
Neither of those dates would conflict with Francis'
participation in the U.S. Amateur (Aug. 20-26) at The Olympic
Club, where he is exempt from qualifying based on his Junior
"I'm excited," said Francis, who also is exempt from U.S.
Open local qualifying the next three years provided he remains an
amateur. "I was hoping to get one. If everything works out this
is going to make next year real exciting. I'm looking forward
|U.S. Junior champion Philip Francis of
Scottsdale, Ariz., will get his chance to play against the
PGA Tour's best a couple of times this year on
sponsor's exemptions. (USGA Photo Archives)|
Francis, the 2006 American Junior Golf Association's Rolex
Player of the Year, is still hoping to secure an exemption into
the FBR Open, held in his hometown of Scottsdale and played at
the Tournament Players Club. In recent years he has just narrowly
missed Monday qualifying for the event.
FBR Open Tournament Chairman Pat McGinley announced Dec. 5
that crowd favorite John Daly received the first sponsor's
exemption for the 2007 FBR Open.
"We have received a number of letters from very qualified
individuals," said McGinley. "Mr. Francis is obviously a very
He said the Thunderbirds, who oversee the running of the
tournament, will evaluate players over the next month.
While the three Tour events Francis could play in have a
combined purse of $13.2 million, the potential to cash a check
won't make him consider turning professional early. He's
not in a rush.
Francis stills plans to matriculate at UCLA unless he makes
major headlines. "I'll stay amateur," said Francis, "except
maybe if I win one of them."
Francis won five national junior golf events in 2006,
including two AJGA majors (Rolex Tournament of Champions and
Thunderbird Invitational) and the U.S. Junior, and had five more
Since he began competing at the age of 4, he has won an
astonishing 147 tournaments.
His decision to sign with UCLA, in part, was to be near
instructor Jim Flick, who relocated from Scottsdale to Carlsbad,
Calif., which is about a two-hour drive south from Westwood.
Flick has been Francis' instructor for the past 11 years at
But of all of Francis' victories, the most important one,
he admitted, was the U.S. Junior at Rancho Santa Fe (Calif.) Golf
Club last July, when he defeated 15-year-old Richard Lee of
Chandler, Ariz., 3 and 2, in the 36-hole championship match.
Francis posted rounds of 68-69-137 during stroke play
qualifying before winning six consecutive matches, including a
quarterfinal decision over 2004 Junior champion Sihwan Kim.
His junior golf career ended last month in a quarterfinal
defeat to fellow AJGA All-American Rickie Fowler at the
AJGA's Polo Junior Classic at Sea Island Golf Club in St.
Simons Island, Ga.
Now, the three-time AJGA All-American is prepared to enter the
next stage of his career.
The PGA Tour exemptions illustrate he's ready for a new
Russ Christ is a newspaper reporter based in Scottsdale,