Almaden Country Club
San Jose, Calif.
Aug. 12-15, 2002

Park and Liao lead Girls Division by one after opening rounds of 69

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Jonathan Taruc of Las Vegas and Jay Choe of Yorba Linda, Calif., jumped to the early lead at the AJGA Needham San Jose Junior Classic after opening rounds of 4-under-par 68. In the Girls Division, Angela Park of Torrance, Calif., and Ki-Shui Liao of Alameda, Calif., carded rounds of 3-under-par 69 to grab a one-stroke lead over the field.

The 54-hole tournament, conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, features 84 players representing 10 states and includes 72 California natives. The inaugural event is being held at the par-72 Almaden Country Club.

Taruc, who started the day on No. 10, parred his first seven holes before he got things going his way. After a birdie on seventeen, Taruc took advantage of the 500-yard, par-5 18th. He landed his second shot, a 250-yard, 3-wood to about 10 feet from the hole and then drained the putt for an eagle. He birdied his next hole to get to 4-under-par and then traded a bogey with a birdie on the back nine to take a share of the lead after the first round.

"That got me fired up," Taruc said. "After that it was a steady day."

Taruc said he is pleased with his opening round but also knows he left some shots out on the course.

"I hit 16 greens today and put myself in position to make birdies," Taruc said. "I hit the ball well but also left some shots out there. I missed a couple five-foot birdie putts."

Choe, 18, almost had to wait as long as Taruc to record his first birdie, but that is only because his 25-yard pitch didn't fall for eagle.

On the first hole, a 523-yard, par-5, Choe's approach shot hit the flagstick and then came to a rest less than a foot from the hole. He made the tap-in birdie putt and then carded nine pars before his next birdie.

"It hit the middle of the flagstick and kicked away," Choe said. "It almost went in."

Choe, who has signed to play golf at the University of California-Irvine, said his familiarity with California courses helped him ascend to the top of the leaderboard.

"I am feeling pretty confident," Choe said. "I am from California and really like the layout of this course. It fits my game and I have played similar courses to this one."

Denny Bae of Burbank, Calif., Daniel Im of La Mirada, Calif., Jeff Vetterick of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and Irvine, Calif., natives David Yoon and Neno Boonyaplanun are deadlocked in third place after round of 69.

In the Girls Division, two of the youngest players in the field lead after day one.

Park, who won the Callaway Junior All-Star Classic at Midland earlier this summer, birdied her last two holes to get to 3-under.

"Those last two holes gives me more confidence going into the next two days," the 13-year-old said. "I am striking the ball well and if I can get my putts to drop then I will be fine."

Park said she doesn't feel any added pressure from being a first-round co-leader, but said she was a bit surprised that 69 was the lowest score posted.

"I thought the course played a little bit easier than I thought it would," Park said. "I thought somebody would go lower than 69."

Liao, 14, playing in her second career AJGA event, canned a 20-foot birdie putt on her last hole to join Park as the first-round leader.

"I hit the ball pretty steady," Liao said. "I hit fairways and greens and had a lot of birdie putts."

Although Liao is in the lead she knows there are a lot of talented players trying to catch her over the next two days.

"Today does not make a difference," Liao said. "I still have to play well the next two days."

Jane Park of Beaumont, Calif., and Jane Lee of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., are tied at third with 70s.

Second-round action begins at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow off No. 1 and 10. Tee times will run until 9:27 a.m.

For more information regarding the Needham San Jose Junior Classic please contact AJGA headquarters at (408) 268-4653, ext. 22.

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