Paolucci Maintains Lead with Second Straight Sub-Par Round at Thunderbird International Junior
Beck fires back, joins Morris on top of Girls Division leaderboard
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Anthony Paolucci of Del Mar, Calif., fended off a slew of competitors Sunday, carding a second-round 69 to stay in control of the Boys Division at 9-under-par heading into the final round of the Thunderbird International Junior. In the Girls Division, Laetitia Beck of Caesarea, Israel, carded seven birdies en route to a 3-under par 69 to claim a share of the second-round lead at 2-under-par 142 with first-round leader Rachel Morris of Carlsbad, Calif.
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 while the Girls Division is playing at 6,275 yards.
Paolucci continued his onslaught on the Raptor Course, beginning his day with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, before adding two more at 14 and 15. A bogey on the 18th left him with an outward nine of 33, but additional errors on Nos. 2 and 3 would temporarily drop the Southern Cal commit from the lead.
“I made a bad decision on No. 18 and made bogey, then I three-putted Nos. 2 and 3, so I was a little shaky after that,” he said.
Paolucci managed to rally, carding birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 to regain the lead and finish at 3-under-par 69, two strokes ahead of the field.
“I knew I needed to finish strong because I saw Justin [Thomas] and a couple other guys who are playing good golf, so the birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 and a good putt on No. 9 really helped me finish strong.”
Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky., currently sits in second at 7-under-par after firing a second-round 67, while Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos, Calif., is in third place at 6-under-par 138. Shun Yat Hak of Lake Mary, Fla., carded the low round of the day, a 6-under-par 66, to move into fourth place.
Jordan Spieth of Dallas joins Gavin Hall of Pittsford, N.Y., and Denny McCarthy of Burtonsville, Md., in a tie for fifth at 4-under-par 140.
In the Girls Division, first-round leader Morris survived a roller-coaster round in the desert, carding six birdies to five bogeys. Morris cited a solid short game as a key factor in keeping her hopes of a second AJGA invitational victory alive heading into Monday's final round.
“I take more good away from today's round because I made more birdies than I did yesterday, so I know I can do it and it gave me more confidence,” Morris said. “I was putting really well and I thought overall I was playing pretty solid, so if I can eliminate some of those bogeys tomorrow then I think I'll be in good shape.”
For Beck, solid putting led to seven birdies and enabled the Israeli-native to surge back into competition after finishing the first round two shots back in a tie for sixth. After strong finishes in her two previous events, Beck said her expectations were high coming into the Memorial Day event.
“Of course I want to win,” Beck said. “Almost anyone can win, so I want to win and I think I'm able to win. I just have to play well.”
One stroke back in third place is two-time Rolex Junior Player of the Year Victoria Tanco of Buenos Aires, Argentina, at 1-under-par 143. Defending champion Yueer Cindy Feng of Orlando, Fla., is tied for fourth place with Stephanie Meadow of Jordanstown, Northern Ireland, at 1-over-par 145.
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 lends 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.
Final-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.