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Arizona National
Tucson, Arizona
July 6, 2003

John Wisner and Esther Choe top Boys and Girls Divisions

TUCSON, Ariz. - Amid windy conditions and hot temperatures at Arizona National, John Wisner of Tucson and Esther Choe of La Quinta, Calif., lead a field of 16 boy and four girl qualifiers into this week's I.R.I. Golf Group Arizona National Junior.

Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, Sunday's shotgun qualifier featured a field of 85 boys and 12 girls from eight states.

Wisner, 16, topped the Boys Division, carding a 2-under-par 69. Wisner was 3-over-par after his first five holes of play, but came back with five birdies on his way to qualifying for his first AJGA event.

"I didn't think I had a chance after my first nine," commented Wisner. "But after I birdied 10, 12, 15, and 18, I knew I was back in the game."

Wisner credits his short-iron play and putting for his back-nine revival.

"I was sticking it close on every hole; I mean every single hole," Wisner said. "I was also making every putt within 10 feet; they were all dropping."

Joseph Lopez of Chino Hills, Calif., took second in the qualifier shooting an even-par 71. The highlight of Lopez's day came at a good time. After carding a double bogey on No. 10, Lopez answered with an eagle on the 608-yard, par-5 eleventh hole where he sunk an eight-foot putt after knocking a 7-iron from 217 yards onto the green.

"That was a good hole," Lopez said. "But my round wasn't too solid, I just tried to keep the ball in play. I just wanted to make the cut today, I wasn't trying to go low."

Third place went to Andrew Ok of Granada Hills, Calif., and Mike Hedstrom of Chandler, Ariz., who tied with matching 2-over-par 73s.

Joining Wisner, Lopez, Ok, and Hedstrom will be twelve other boys. In a three-way tie for fifth, Ryan Ritzau of Goleta, Calif., Adam Marcellus of Phoenix, and Jimmy Bicking of Scottsdale, Ariz., all posted rounds of 3-over-par 74s. John Chin of Temecula, Calif., Andrew Schafer of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Mitch Jolley of Las Vegas, all carded 75s to tie for eighth place. Also qualifying with scores of 5-over-par 76 was Sasan Shahi of Laguna Niguel, Calif., Steven Chung of Los Angeles, Ryan Farb of Tucson, Ryan Dunham of West Covina, Calif., Paul Hanzal of Jamul, Calif., and Tyler Smith of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

In the Girls Division, 13-year-old Esther Choe carded a 70, to qualify for her fifth AJGA event.

Choe got off to a phenomenal start, carding three birdies on her first three holes. She continued to play well, going on a 10-hole par-streak before carding back-to-back birdies, and finishing strong with three pars.

Choe says it was her putting that kept her going today.

"I made all my short putts today," Choe said. "I started losing it on the back (with two bogeys) but I told myself I wouldn't give up."

Choe looks for another solid performance in this week's tournament.

"I played good today," Choe said. "But I need to play well in the real thing. I just need to play my own golf."

Taylore Karle of Plano, Texas, shot a 6-over-par 77 for second place, while Christina Schams of Chandler, Ariz., and Sara Ovadia of Santa Barbara, Calif., tied for third place with matching 81s.

The first round of the I.R.I. Golf Group Arizona National Junior begins Tuesday with tee times starting at 7 a.m. off Nos. 1 and 10 tees.

For more information on the I.R.I. Golf Group Arizona National Junior, please contact tournament headquarters at (520) 749-3636 (ext. 23).