by Samantha Glover, AJGA Communications
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Thunderbird International Junior is a 54-hole stroke play competition played on the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club. The event features 48 boys and 30 girls, ages 12-18, from 17 states and 14 countries. The Boys Division is playing the course at 7,112 yards while the Girls Division is playing the course at 6,342 yards.
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Karen Chung of Livingston, N.J., and Brad Dalke of McKinney, Texas, will look to earn their second Thunderbird International Junior titles. Chung, a five-time AJGA champion and three-time first-team Rolex Junior All-American, will compete in the event for the last time before heading to the University of Southern California in the fall. Dalke, whose 2011 victory made him the AJGA’s youngest boys Invitational champion at 13 years, 9 months and 11 days, will seek his third AJGA victory.
Big Shoes to Fill
Since the creation of the Thunderbird International Junior in 2000, many champions have continued their careers at the collegiate and professional levels.
The first Girls Division champion, Virada Narapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, went on to play collegiate golf at Duke and win the women’s NCAA Championship in 2002 before winning the 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur. After winning the event in 2004, Belen Mozo of Cadiz, Spain, played for the University of Southern California where she was a four-time NCAA All-American. She then played on the Symetra Tour, and is now in her second year on the LPGA Tour.
Current PGA TOUR player and reigning champion of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Ryan Moore won the Boys Division in 2001. He continued his career at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas before turning professional in 2005. After being named the 2001 Rolex Junior Player of the Year, Casey Wittenberg won the 2002 Thunderbird International Junior. He was recently named the 2012 Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
Close to Home
Several local competitors are among the top-ranked field. Christopher Petefish of Scottsdale will compete in his first Thunderbird International Junior. Krystal Quihuis and George Cunningham, both of Tucson, Ariz., hope to earn their second AJGA victories of 2013 at Grayhawk Golf Club. For Quihuis, victory at the Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic hosted by Longbow Golf Club in March, was her first AJGA champion title. Cunningham collected his second AJGA title at the TaylorMade-adidas Golf Junior at Innisbrook hosted by Sean O'Hair.
Grayhawk Golf Club features two 18-hole courses - the Raptor Course and the Talon Course. This week juniors will play on the Raptor Course. The par-72 course, designed by Tom Fazio, has played host to a number of golf events since its completion in 1995 including the 2007-2009 Frys.com Open.
Named Eights & Aces, the par 3, 174 yard No. 8 is one of many picturesque holes on the Raptor Course that includes views of the McDowell Mountains.