Representing the home course

Published 5:13 pm Friday, July 14, 2023

Pair of local golfers to compete in national competition at Austin Country Club


A pair of local golfers will get the opportunity to showcase their skills amongst some of the best players at the American Junior Golf Association championship in Austin Country Club on July 18-21.

Austin freshman Ailani Thiravong and sophomore Elijah Krueger will be amongst the pack as both players have qualified for the tournament, which features just under 100 players.

Austin’s Elijah Krueger chips a shot at Austin Country Club this past season. Rocky Hulne/

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Thiravong is no stranger to summer tournaments as she travels frequently to play against top competition, but Krueger has spent most of his summer playing casually with his friends and family.

“I’ve just been playing for fun this summer. This tournament will be great for me to get experience for the future and upcoming tournaments,” Krueger said. “I’m going to try and learn, and I’ll be playing my own game.”

Thiravong and Krueger have both shot as low as the mid 70s this summer and each of them are growing as golfers after playing key roles on their respective varsity squads for the Packers this past spring. 

“I’m super excited for this opportunity and I’m going to try to play to the best of my ability,” Thiravong said. “I want to be a really good representation of Austin and serve as an ambassador. I know there are going to be a lot of good players and this is a longer distance than I’m used to, but I’m going to play my best and have fun.”

Both Krueger and Thiravong have been lifelong golfers, but they still feel nerves, especially when playing in front of a crowd.

“I’ve never played on this high of a level of competition before. I’m happy to do this in the town where I grew up,” Krueger said. “I just worry about one shot at a time. If you have a bad hole, you don’t let it ruin your round.”

Thiravong, who lived in Illinois for much of her childhood before returning to Austin in her seventh grade year, is familiar with the big tournament atmosphere. However, the adrenaline does not go away when some of the top players in the nation are in the mix.

“Once you get up on the first tee box, it’s definitely nerve racking, but as you get into the round it kind of melts away,” Thiravong said. “I start to focus on my game and I know that I need to perform well.”

Austin’s Ailiani Thiravong pushes a shot out of the sand bunker at Austin Country Club last season. Rocky Hulne/

Krueger is hopeful that playing in a big meet will help him improve as he has great expectations for the future of golf in Austin.

“We’re proud to be able to have a big tournament like this here in Austin. Many towns don’t get this opportunity,” Kruger said. “We’re excited for the next couple of years (of high school golf) because we’re all kind of young. I learned a lot this spring.”

Thiravong has grown accustomed to playing two vastly different seasons — spring and summer. With the Packers, Thiravong enjoys herself and plays for her team, but the summer is when she is forced to push herself as an individual.

“Playing with the team in the spring is a lot of fun, and you know your opponents and coaches,” Thiravong said. “The summer tournaments are closer to college distances and you get to meet some new players from all over.”

Both Austin players are appreciative about the opportunity to host such a big event and Thiravong is certain that the AJGA golfers will be impressed with Austin Country Club.

“I just want to thank Hormel for sponsoring me to play in this tournament and the Country Club for hosting this tournament and giving the juniors the opportunity to play on such a beautiful course,” Thiravong said.

The tournament is 54 holes and it is the first time since 2018 that an AJGA event will be played in Minnesota.