HIE EN FUEGO IN THE DESERT AT THUNDERBIRD INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR
Kono takes lead in the Girls Division
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Rory Hie of Lakewood, Calif., was as hot as the desert sun during the first round of the Thunderbird International Junior on Saturday, firing a 7-under-par 65 to take a three-shot lead in the Boys Division. In the Girls Division, Stephanie Kono of Honolulu took control with a 2-under-par 70.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the seventh annual Thunderbird International Junior is being held at Grayhawk Golf Club on the Raptor Course. The par-72 course is set up at 7,113 yards for the Boys Division and 6,271 for the Girls. The tournament field consists of 48 boys and 36 girls, ages 12-18, from 16 states, Australia, Canada, China, Columbia, Finland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, Sweden and Taiwan.
Hie, who began on No. 10, got off to a good start with back-to-back 20-foot birdie putts on Nos. 11 and 12. His bad break came on No. 6 when he hit the wrong ball, incurred a two-stroke penalty, and ended up with a bogey.
“I had a pretty good round today,” the 17-year Rolex Junior All-American said. “I committed to every shot and got lucky with a couple of shots.”
Hie had a career-best 10 birdies with three bogeys and nines of 34-31.
“Ten birdies is a dream come true for me,” Hie said. “I saw the ball going in every hole and it did. I noticed a lot of players under par on the leaderboards, so I just tried not to give up shots to the field.”
Three-strokes off the lead at 4-under-par 68 is Jamie Lovemark of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Richard Lee of Chandler, Ariz.; Roberto Galletti, Jr., of Clayton, Calif.; and Arnond Vongvanij of Bradenton, Fla., are tied for third at 3-under-par 69.
In the Girls Division, Rolex Junior All-American Kono shot 34-36—70 with four birdies, including an 18-footer on No. 18.
“On the front nine, I made a lot of pars and birdies when the opportunities came,” the 16-year-old Kono said. “I played really steady today and the key to my round was putting. Tomorrow, I need to try to hit it closer to the hole to have a lot more birdie opportunities.”
Two strokes back at even-par 72 are Esther Choe of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Jane Rah of Torrance, Calif.; and Stacey Kim of Columbus, Ga.
The Thunderbird International Junior annually attracts the top junior golfers in the world with 52 Rolex Junior All-Americans present this year. Past champions of the event include Virada Nirapathpongporn, Ryan Moore, Casey Wittenberg, Brittany Lang, Rob Grube and Morgan Pressel.
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The largest Association of its kind, the AJGA has a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 30 countries.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which enters its third decade of support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 wins. AJGA alumni include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Dottie Pepper, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Beth Bauer.
Second-round tee times will run from 7:15 — 9:12 a.m. off Nos. 1 and 10 on the Raptor Course. For more information on the Thunderbird International Junior, please contact tournament headquarters at (480) 502-3181.