NATION'S TOP-RANKED GIRL LEADS PING PHOENIX JUNIOR
Cho makes five birdies and eagle en route to 7-under-par 65
SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, Ariz. Chris Cho of San Diego, Calif., took the Boys Division first-round lead of the PING Phoenix Junior after he fired a 7-under-par 65 Wednesday. Esther Choe of Scottsdale, Ariz., sits atop the Girls Division after shooting a 4-under-par 68.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the PING Phoenix Junior is being played on Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club's par-72 Prospector Course. The 54-hole event features 63 boys and 20 girls, ages 12-18, from 17 states and two countries.
Cho's bogey-free 65 included five birdies and an eagle on No. 18, a 553-yard par 5. By firing at flagsticks and playing aggressive golf, Cho stuck his approaches close and wielded a hot putter to the tune of only 24 putts in his round.
The key to my round was on the greens, Cho said. I had a real good feel for the speed, and the greens were rolling pure so my putts held their line.
Cho placed extra emphasis on staying relaxed during his round. Without added pressure on himself, Cho was able to play his own game and go low. Regardless of his three-stroke lead, Cho is not complacent about the competition he has chasing him.
The difference was I tried less, I was more laid back, Cho said. I'm feeling confident, but I know I have two days left, and I can't get ahead of myself.
Fresh off his win last week at the Pinnacle Communities Junior Championship, Sihwan Kim of Buena Park, Calif., fired a 4-under-par 68 to stand alone in second place. Behind him in a three-way tie for third are Jed Dirksen of Hampton, Iowa, Hyun Seok Lim of Fullerton, Calif., and Austin Uhl of Phoenix, after they all shot 3-under-par 69s.
In the Girls Division, Choe was on fire Wednesday, continuing her lucky streak of the summer. The 17-year-old has placed in the top-3 in all four of her AJGA tournaments this season. Choe was off to a good start with five birdies and only one bogey on the Prospector Course.
I worked hard, she said, and hopefully I'll continue to play better.
Choe was not alone in her pursuit of the leaderboard. After she tapped in for a 4-under-par 68, Taylor Karle of Scottsdale, Ariz., came to No. 18 tee, also at 4-under-par, but finished with a bogey and gave Choe the lead. Choe has a long history with the PING Phoenix Junior, participating in the event in 2002 and placing third in 2004. However, Choe, the No.1-ranked junior girl golfer in the country according to AJGA rankings, is accustomed to the pressure that comes along with being in the lead.
I don't really worry about that too much, Choe said.
In the Girls Division, Karle is in second after four birdies and an eagle gave her 3-under-par 69. In a three-way tie for third sit Rachel Morris of Carlsbad, Calif., Ashley Smith of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Christine Song of Fullerton, Calif., all with even-par 72.
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 foreign counties.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which is in 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, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr, Candie Kung and Paula Creamer.
The second round of the PING Phoenix Junior will begin Thursday, August 17 with tee times starting at 7:00 a.m. off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees. For more information on the PING Phoenix Junior, contact tournament headquarters at (480) 677-6659 or (480) 677-6613 and ask for the AJGA.