Australian Karl Vilips has ascended to the top of the American Junior Golf Association rankings.
Vilips, 16, has been a fixture near the top end of the AJGA rankings for the past couple of years, but a second place in March’s Bishops Gate event followed by a third place at the recent Thunderbird International were enough to kick him into the top slot.
Speaking from Florida at his Saddlebrook Prep base, Vilips was excited to have scaled the rankings summit.
“It really means a lot to me. I’ve been around the top five for a while now, but this was a huge goal for me and I’m really excited to have done it,” the Victorian said.
Vilips said the honour was largely just a recognition for his hard work, rather than it opening specific doors for tournament entries.
“I think it more gives me great confidence to know that when I’ve been grinding my —- off over here that it has all been worthwhile, that I’m doing the right things,” he said.
“But I can’t take it for granted. Anyone can win any tournament we play. I guess it helps a little bit with maybe some intimidation (of competitors) … but I know how much of a goal it was for me to get there and maybe it inspires others to work harder to catch me, I don’t know.”
Golf Australia high performance director Brad James said it was a great feat.
“While the AJGA is not intimately known by many in Australian golfing circles, it’s a big deal in world junior golf and Karl should be heartily congratulated on his achievement,” James said.
“It’s particularly impressive, especially given most of his nearest rivals on the rankings list are at least a year, sometimes two, older than Karl.
“It’s a testament to all the work Karl has poured into his game, particularly with Texas-based Australian coach Cameron McCormick in the past two years.”
While eligibility criteria is yet to be finalised for next year’s Junior Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, Vilips’ ascension to No.1 clearly has him in the box seat for selection.
And while he acknowledges much can change before the naming of the final International team, which he represented in the event’s inaugural edition in 2017, Vilips is already excited about the prospect of his home advantage over his American peers and rivals.
“I don’t think the American kids will know what hit ‘em (at Royal Melbourne),” Vilips said with obvious excitement.
“I had a few (American) mates play the (Australian) Master of the Amateurs this year and they had a couple of big scores because they’d never seen a course like it.
“It’s another big goal of mine to get back on that International team and if I can do it, I’m sure I’ll be able to help out our team with what to expect at Royal Melbourne.
“I might be the only person who has been eligible for the first two and we didn’t win last year and I think that will be great motivation for me to get one back on the Americans.”
The American team will likely be chosen from within the AJGA rankings, while the International team will likely be chosen from the world amateur rankings. The great majority of both teams competes regularly on the thriving AJGA circuit.