Paolucci Fires 66, Claims First-Round Lead at Thunderbird International Junior
Morris leads Girls Division by one at Grayhawk Golf Club
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Anthony Paolucci of Del Mar, Calif., leads the Boys Division at 6-under-par after carding five birdies and an eagle during Saturday's first round at the Thunderbird International Junior. Rachel Morris of Carlsbad, Calif., started her fourth Thunderbird International Junior with a 1-under-par 71 and holds a one-shot lead over four other girls.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the 11th annual Thunderbird International Junior is a 54-hole stroke play event being played at Grayhawk Golf Club's Raptor Course. The 78-player field features 48 boys and 30 girls, ages 12-18, from 18 states and 15 countries. The Boys Division is playing the par-72 layout at 7,112 yards and the Girls Division is playing at 6,275 yards.
Paolucci's lone blemish of the day came on the par-4 sixth hole, but the Southern Cal commit rebounded by draining a five-foot eagle putt on No. 7.
“After the eagle on No. 7, I chipped-in for birdie on No. 9 and that calmed me down a bit,” said Paolucci, who is a three-time Rolex Junior All-American. “I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, made some putts here and there and didn't really scramble much.”
Three players shot 3-under-par 69 and are three shots back heading into Sunday's second round. Fresh off making the cut at the PGA TOUR's HP Byron Nelson Championship, Jordan Spieth of Dallas carded six birdies against three bogeys in his round of 69. Oliver Schniederjans of Powder Springs, Ga., and Cameron Wilson of Rowayton, Conn., are also tied for second after 18 holes.
Six players are tied for fifth at 2-under-par: A.J. McInerney of Henderson, Nev.; Mathias Schjoelberg of Baerum, Norway; Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos, Calif.; Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky.; Jay Hwang of San Diego; and Cameron Smith of Brisbane, Australia.
In the Girls Division, Morris' round of 71 is the best start in her four years at the Thunderbird International Junior. Like Paolucci, she has committed to Southern Cal and said that her experience served her well in the first round.
“I usually play pretty well here and I think the experience helps a lot because I know the course pretty well,” Morris said. “I know what to expect and I know how the tournament goes and what you need to shoot. I just feel comfortable here since I've played it for so long, but you still have to play well.”
Defending champion Yueer Cindy Feng of Orlando, Fla., is one of four players tied for second at even par. Stephanie Meadow of Jordanstown, Northern Ireland, Kristen Park of Buena Park, Calif., and Ashlan Ramsey of Bradenton, Fla., also shot 72 in the first round.
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 provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships, and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 49 states and 30 countries. To ensure scholarship opportunities for all junior golfers who have the skill, the AJGA created the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant program to provide financial assistance to young players in need.
As in the past, Callaway Golf will lend its support to the event. Other major sponsors are the Thunderbirds, the Phil and Amy Mickelson Charitable Fund, Grayhawk Golf Club and the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
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 AJGA support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Polo Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 400 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.
Second-round tee times will run from 7:15 — 9:03 a.m. off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees at Grayhawk Golf Club's Raptor Course. For more information, please contact Tournament Headquarters at (480) 502-3181.