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Longbow Golf Club
Mesa, Ariz. • April 13 - 16

Scottsdale, Ariz., natives Francis and Choe lead by four shots after opening round

MESA, Ariz. — First-team Rolex Junior All-American Philip Francis of Scottsdale, Ariz., came out firing Friday at the first round of the Heather Farr Classic, recording a 6-under-par 65 to take a commanding four-shot lead. In the Girls Division, Esther Choe, also of Scottsdale, wrapped up her round of 4-under-par 67 just as strong winds took hold of Longbow Golf Club. Like Francis, Choe holds a four-shot lead going into Saturday's second round.

Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Heather Farr Classic is a 54-hole stroke play event being held at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Ariz. An Easter Weekend tradition, the Heather Farr Classic is being staged in the Phoenix-area for the eighth consecutive year. One-hundred thirty-two junior golfers (ages 12-18) from 17 states, Canada and Mexico are competing in the tournament. The field includes 25 Rolex Junior All-Americans and boasts past champions such as Paula Creamer, Amanda Blumenherst and Hunter Mahan.

After finishing one shot out of the top spot in last week's AJGA Craig Ranch Junior in McKinney, Texas, Francis made an early statement at Longbow Golf Club, besting the field by four shots in the first round. Francis recorded six birdies, including three on his final four holes, to catapult to the top of the Heather Farr Classic leaderboard.

“I only missed two greens (Friday) and was able to give myself a lot of opportunities,” Francis said. “I was able to capitalize on the greens that I hit by making a lot of putts.”

Still in search of his first AJGA victory, the two-time Rolex Junior All-American and four-time AJGA runner-up hopes to continue his hot streak Saturday.

“I played very well last week in Texas,” Francis continued. “I'm playing solid right now and my overall game is good.”

Two more valley players head a six-way tie for second place, including Tim McKenney of Scottsdale, and Cameron Edens of Phoenix. Both players, along with Justin Spray of Colorado Springs, Colo., Colby Smith of Auburn, Calif., Luke Symons of Lone Tree, Colo., and Chase Hite of Tucson, Ariz., carded matching 2-under-par 69s and trail Francis by four shots.

Another first-team Rolex Junior All-American, Choe notched three birdies and one bogey on both nines at Longbow Golf Club while building her lead.

“I was hitting my shots very consistently, which was good,” Choe said. “I just wanted to focus shot by shot and hit the greens and fairways.”

Choe, who won two AJGA events in 2005, hopes to continue her solid play and reverse her fortunes at Longbow Golf Club.

“I haven't played to well here in the past,” Choe explained. “It would be great to get a win so close to home.”

Kristen Schelling, playing in her hometown, carded an even-par 71 and trails Choe by four shots. First-team Rolex Junior All-American Mina Harigae of Monterey, Calif., is also tied for second after shooting a 71.

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 AJGA, the largest Association of its kind, has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 30 foreign 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 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 compiles 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.

Second-round tee times for the Heather Farr Classic begin at 7 a.m. Saturday off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees at Longbow Golf Club. A second wave of tee times will begin at 11:15 a.m. For more information on the Heather Farr Classic, please contact tournament headquarters at (480) 807-5400.