KIM WINS THUNDERBIRD INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR WITH EXCLAMATION POINT
Arnond Vongvanij hangs on for a two-stroke win after posting a 3-over-par 75
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Despite holding a seven-shot lead heading into the final hole of the Thunderbird International Junior Monday, reigning U.S. Women's Amateur Champion Kimberly Kim of Pahoa, Hawaii, rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 494-yard, par-5 18th to solidify her hold on the tournament scoring record. Her 10-under-par 67-72-67—206 54-hole total eclipsed the previous record of 209 set by Belen Mozo in 2004 and Morgan Pressel in 2005.
In the Boys Division, Arnond Vongvanij of Bradenton, Fla., who started the day with a seven-shot lead, posted a final-round 75 for a 208 tournament total, just enough to hold off Philip Francis of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Bud Cauley of Jacksonville, Fla., by two strokes.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the eighth-annual Thunderbird International Junior was held on the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club. The Boys Division played the par-72 course at 7,113 yards, while the Girls Division played at 6,271 yards. The 78-player tournament field consisted of 42 boys and 36 girls, ages 14-18, from 18 states, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, England, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and United Kingdom.
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 LPGA Tour players Virada Nirapathpongporn, Brittany Lang and Pressel and PGA TOUR player Ryan Moore.
The pressure of holding a lead heading into the final round of an AJGA Invitational clearly did not affect Kim during the final round. The second-team Rolex Junior All-American played a flawless 18 holes, carding five birdies and no bogeys en route to her 5-under-par 67.
“I'm not the most confident person in the world, so to win shows me that the last year of hard work is paying off,” Kim said. “By the back nine I was tired enough to be in my own world and not worry about whether or not I was winning the event.”
Vicky Hurst of Melbourne, Fla., posted a 2-under-par 70 to finish at 214 and alone in second place. Taylore Karle of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Marta Silva Zamora of Santiago De Compostela, Spain, finished tied for third at 1-over-par 217.
Vongvanij saw his lead in the Boys Division slip after posting a 2-over-par 38 on the front nine. This allowed Cauley and Francis to make up three and five strokes, respectively. He continued to grind it out on the back nine, trying to make pars and protect a lead that had dwindled to two strokes coming into the final hole. After Cauley was unsuccessful on a 50-foot eagle chip, Vongvanij two-putted for par from 30 feet to secure the tournament title with a 66-67-75—208 total in his final AJGA event.
“In my mind, this is the best junior golf tournament in the world,” the first-team Rolex Junior All-American said. “Overall, I played really well, so I will leave here with no regrets. I'll go to (the University of) Florida knowing that I can compete at the highest level.”
By shooting a final-round 4-under-par 68 — which tied him for the low final round with Josh Jones of The Colony, Texas — Francis moved into a tie for second with Cauley at 6-under-par 210. Peter Uihlein of Bradenton, Fla., finished with a 71-70-70—211 tournament total to place fourth. Jones' 68 moved him into fifth place at 212.
Several past participants of the Thunderbird International Junior have gone to play in the FBR Open, the PGA TOUR event sponsored by The Thunderbirds each year. Ryan Moore, Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan and Kevin Na all competed in the FBR Open, which is currently in its 72nd year. The FBR Open raised more than $14 million in two years for charity.
For more information about the Thunderbird International Junior or the American Junior Golf Association, please contact the AJGA National Headquarters at (877) 373-2542.