Teeing Off in Austin: Two Packers take part in AJGA event in Spamtown

Ailani Thiravong and Elijah Krueger got to represent their hometown during the Austin Minnesota Junior Championship.

(ABC 6 News) — Picture this for a backyard get-together, several up-and-comers in the junior golf circuit not just from around the state and the country; but around the world as well.

That’s the exact kind of competition Austin natives Ailani Thiravong and Elijah Krueger faced this week in the Austin Minnesota Junior Championship.

“Playing here is a really great experience,” Thiravong reflected. “It was my first AJGA event and I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to playing in more of these high-stake events.”

“It’s cool,” Krueger added. “Because I grew up here. I haven’t seen this good of golf before in [person], and it’s just fun.”

Thiravong will be a freshman this year for the Austin High Packers while Krueger is an incoming sophomore. In speaking with them, both feel such stiff opposition is going to be important for personal experience.

“I was excited when I heard about it,” Krueger continued. “Because I knew there would be good players and I could learn some stuff once I played in it.”

“Every player wants to do their absolute best and ultimately win,” Thiravong stated. “I’ve really learned from the players here and how they handle themselves and everything.”

The field indeed proved fierce, Krueger and Thiravong finished with 80 and 82 respectively, unable to make the cut for Friday. Humbling as that is, it also shows how much the two Packers have to grow still if they want to be on par with the rest of the pack.

“I was not the top of the leaderboard like where I usually am compared to other tournaments,” Thiravong assessed. “I’m kind of in the middle to the lower end and it just gives me something to look forward to and work for in the mext upcoming years.”

The beauty of golf is that it will always be a lifetime sport. Even though both Thiravong and Krueger may not stick out on the leaderboards, the next time something like this comes to Spamtown, both Packers will embrace it. Just like they’ve embraced today, soaking up a tournament full of potential future stars.

“Yeah, if I have the chance to be able to play in it again I’m looking forward to it,” Krueger said. “Since I’ve done it before I won’t be as nervous coming into one again and stuff like that. The people that I’ve played with have only been playing for a couple of years and they’re already so good. So, if I just put in the time, I can get just as good as them.”

The AJGA is expected to hold the Austin Minnesota Junior Championship again at Austin Country Club both in 2024 and 2025.