ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – It’s easier than you might imagine to lose a golf bag at a junior golf event – particularly if it’s a red bag, the coveted sign of an AJGA Open or Junior All-Star winner.
Avery Zweig explains that this has happened to a friend of hers. Zweig, however, need not worry because before her post-round interview at the Annika Invitational was even complete on Monday afternoon, her clubs had already been transferred into the new blue and white bag – the kind carried by winners of AJGA Invitationals. Meanwhile, an elegant cut-glass trophy rested safely on the table next to the 13-year-old, who tried to put both in perspective in terms of hours invested.
“This is like a physical symbol of that,” she said of her first AJGA win.
The experience with which Zweig backs up this milestone win is mind-blowing. She’s a player who can give a cavalier start to an acceptance speech (“Well I’d say this was a pretty good day”), draw applause for her age and as a kicker, remind the crowd that she’s going to be back four more times to defend.
“You guys may be sick of me,” she joked.
Despite being only 13, Zweig has made four USGA starts (with a fifth coming in April at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball) and holds a handful of USGA age records. She also appeared in the 2013 junior-golf documentary “The Short Game.”
Scores: AJGA Annika Invitational
It’s both remarkable she won an AJGA invitational at this young age and surprising it took her this long.
Entering a clear, chilly day at the Slammer & Squire course at World Golf Village, Zweig, in the graduating class of 2025, trailed high school senior Kendall Todd by a single shot. Birdies at Nos. 2 and 6 kept her in the game as Todd played the first seven holes in 2 under. But when Zweig birdied the par-5 eighth and then dropped a 35-footer for birdie on the ninth, she seemed to pick up a pep in her step.
“I told myself at the beginning of the day, or at least this is how I comforted my nerves, no matter what happened today, I knew I was going to get something out of it,” Zweig said, referencing the experienced players in her group. “I told myself I wasn’t going to play tentative and if I was going to lose, I wasn’t going to lose with fear.”
For Zweig, birdies at Nos. 10 and 12 followed. At the 300-yard par-4 14th, Todd and 16-year-old Ganne, the third member of the final group, pulled driver to go for the green. Zweig laid up with a fairway wood and walked away with par.
It occurred to Zweig that tournament directors were rotating tee boxes and massaging yardages to make contenders’ rounds interesting – to make her round interesting. Zweig lost a shot on No. 14 with driver in the first round, when the tee was back, but birdied it after a layup on the second day.
“We go over my notes, and I have a specific gameplan that I have to follow,” she said. “Part of it was laying up on 14 if the tee was front or back.”
Zweig navigated the back nine in 1 under for a closing 68, the low round of the day. At 7 under, she was four ahead of Todd and six ahead of Ganne, who spent the day laughing at Zweig’s jokes and commentary while marveling at her swing.
“She’s so sweet and polite and respectful and funny,” Ganne said. “She was so nice to play with.”
Ivan Zweig was a half step ahead of his daughter – or a half step behind, to the side, at the right angle – for the duration of the round. He deftly videoed every one of his daughter’s shots, often holding his iPhone with his right hand while drumming the fingers of his left hand with paternal nervous energy.
Ivan, a self-described entrepreneur who works primarily in IT, has gotten quite adept at editing together swing footage the more tournament experience his daughter racks up.
Ivan started videoing Avery in competition when she was 5, and has massive amounts of swing shots on iCloud. Sometimes he and Avery will look through the video together after a round and sometimes he simply edits the clips together to post. Avery has grown a large following on her Facebook page, to the tune of 24,000 followers, and also has a dedicated YouTube channel.
“It’s invaluable,” he said. “It’s like football film study.”
Many aspects of Avery’s golf style are symbolic. She wears all black in the final round as a nod to Johnny Cash. Avery’s favorite Cash song is “Man in Black,” and the running family joke is that she’s going to her opponents’ funeral.
Her initials are also built into a logo designed by a friend of Ivan’s. The AZ sits on top of a tiny lit bomb, an insignia embroidered onto the back collar of the black shirt Avery wore in the final round of the Annika.
“We really just copied Tiger Woods,” Ivan said of the logo placement. “When it doubt, copy Tiger Woods.”
Notably, Avery’s 2021 has also included a top-20 at last week’s Sally Amateur 60 miles south in Ormond Beach, Florida. Between those two tournaments, she returned to her McKinney, Texas, home where she attends eighth grade at Spring Creek Academy.
Before the Sally, Avery and Ivan played a practice round at World Golf Village. They discovered that Avery was at a major disadvantage with her long irons. Feeling like Avery was losing too many shots from the 160 to 185 yard range, the Zweigs called Callaway to see about an equipment update.
Avery subbed out her 5- and 6-irons in place of a 5- and 6-hybrid, and knows it made all the difference. She and Ivan went back to that decision over and over again as being key in the Annika Invitational win.
Equipment is just one part of the equation and a small part of the team that brings all the pieces together. Avery credits work with a physical trainer, swing coach and short-game coach as being instrumental – an unusually large team for a 13-year-old.
Next week, Avery turns 14. There still isn’t a lot you can do to celebrate a birthday in a lingering pandemic, but she imagines she’ll do dinner with friends. It’s too early in the year to have much of a goal sheet drafted out, but the Annika title will certainly open a few doors.
“Winning an invitational and having that experience, it’s essential in my development,” she said. “I think my goal is to become a more consistent player overall.”
Asked what she’d like to accomplish next, Avery listed the Junior Solheim and Junior Ryder Cup.
A national-team bag would vault her to a whole new level.