Gupta and Jing were crowned overall champions
Gupta and Jing were crowned overall champions Image Credit: EGF

On April 12-14, 2024, the Junior Asian Golf Academy (JAGA) and the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) hosted the inaugural Optimas-JAGA International Series – Order of Merit Championship at the Al-Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club.

The three-day, World Amateur Golf Ranking event showcased a strong field of junior golf talent, with Natalii Gupta and Shijun Jing winning the overall championship.

Sanctioned by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), JAGA has created the Optimas - JAGA International Series Order of Merit, which will provide affiliated associations and tournament operators the highest level of competition for elite student-golfers across Asia Pacific and Africa. This development pathway will offer amateur golfers strong competition while collecting World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) points.

The inaugural championship featured an impressive lineup of 11 WAGR-ranked players and two NCAA Division 1 commits who will be joining the prestigious Duke University golf program. The field had players from 24 different countries that represented 16 different golf associations. Along with an overall leaderboard, categories and age groups were created ensuring a comprehensive platform for young golfers to showcase their skills.

The field included players from 24 different countries
The field included players from 24 different countries Image Credit: EGF

Joining Gupta and Jing as winners of their respective divisions were:

Girls Division

Girls U13: Erum Kim (+21)

Girls U15: Suritpreeya Praksanubal (+7)

Girls U18: Lavanya Gupta (+4)

Girls U23: Natalii Gupta (-1, Champion)

Boys Division

Boys U13: Salem Alabdallat (+11)

Boys U15: Kartik Singh (-12)

Boys U18: Shijun Jing (-15, Champion)

Boys U23: Oliver Mukherjee (-10)

Winners received the opportunity to experience ‘The JAGA Way’ at the Junior Asian Golf Academy campus - Black Mountain, Hua Hin, Thailand for 3, 5, or 7 days this summer along with prizes worth $85,000 in total including bursaries.

John Laroche, Founder of JAGA had this to say following the championship. "In partnership with APGC and EGF, Optimas-JAGA International Series is set to showcase the top junior golfers in the Asia Pacific, rewarding them with global recognition and establishing them as the best in the region. We encourage all juniors within UAE, MENA, and Asia Pacific to not miss your chance to compete and make your mark on the international stage.”

General Abdullah Alhashmi, Emirates Golf Federation Vice Chairman and APGC Board Member, added: “It is our goal at the Emirates Golf Federation to provide junior golfers an opportunity to showcase their talents. JAGA and this Order of Merit will do that. With the support of the APGC and Arab Golf Federation, we now can identify the best junior golfers in the region. We also look forward to opening the first JAGA academy in the Middle East, which will allow students to learn, train, and compete.”