Third PING Junior Masters Series tournament of the season tees off for the 27th time.
The Junior Golf Association of Arizona (JGAA) is hosting the Thunderbird Invitational at Papago Golf Course March 13-14. The field features 84 of Arizona’s best junior golfers (48 boys and 36 girls) ranging in age from 13-18 competing in the third PING Junior Masters Series tournament on the 2021 JGAA schedule. Saturday tee times begin at 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on Sunday with an awards ceremony following play.
“Everybody looks forward to this event at Papago,” said Scott McNevin, Executive Director of the JGAA. “It’s a hot spot, more so than ever, for Arizona amateur golf, with the ASU teams there, The Thunderbird Golf Complex, nicknamed The Bird, not to mention their support for this tournament and JGAA in general. It feels like a ‘home game.’”
In his first JGAA start of 2021 season, Preston Summerhays returns to Papago to defend his title at the Thunderbird Invitational. The ASU signee and 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur Champion fired rounds of 69-65—134 to win last year, in addition to another win at the 2020 Warren Schutte Invitational.
Cameron Kaiser enters the field after a T2 finish last year, and recently, he tied for first place, narrowing losing in a playoff, at the Fisher-Bryan Invitational. Bound for Santa Clara University, Kaiser is looking for his second PING Jr Masters Series tournament since his first at the 2020 Willie Low Invitational.
JGAA member since 2008 with more than 160 starts, Noah Nuez hopes to capture his first PING Jr Masters Series tournament in the wake of a solid T3 performance at the Warren Schutte Invitational. In 2020 he posted a runner-up and two T5 finishes, and in 2019, won twice: Phoenix Metro Jr and Antigua Milt Coggins AZ Jr Stroke Play.
Adam Miller is off to a great start in 2021, with a win at the first PING Jr Masters Series tournament of the season, Warren Schutte Invitational. He then followed it up with a strong T11 finish at the second, Fisher-Bryan Invitational. He finished T16 at the 2020 Thunderbird Invitational.
Mahanth Chirravuri finished T2 at last year’s Thunderbird Invitational. He is looking for his first PING Jr Masters win of the 2021 season after a 14th place finish at the Warren Schutte Invitational.
Finishing T10 at last year’s Thunderbird Invitational, Max Lyons posted a T5 result at the 2021 Warren Schutte Invitational, and he’s riding a wave of tremendous play in 2020, which included four wins. Lyons has signed with Marquette University.
After a T20 in last year’s Thunderbird Invitational, Anawin Pikulthong started out the 2021 season with two runner-up finishes at the Warren Schutte Invitational and New Year’s Classic. He also put up a great 2020 in JGAA competition with four wins and three runner-ups.
Joseph Lloyd finished T31 at Papago last year, and so far in 2021, he won the New Year Classic, notched a T10 at the Warren Schutte Invitational and T4 at the Fisher-Bryan Invitational. Last June Lloyd, a University of Utah signee, went on a tear with three consecutive wins in addition to three third-place finishes.
On the girl’s side, Mattison Frick of Peoria already has four 2021 JGAA events in the books, highlighted by a T6 at the Warren Schutte Invitational and ninth place at the Fisher-Bryan Invitational. Last year she recorded three wins, three runner-ups, one third place finish, nine top-10s and 10 top-25s in all 10 events entered in 2020.
Grace Summerhays enters the field with momentum from a second-place finish at the Warren Schutte Invitational and a win at the Fisher-Bryan Invitational where she made birdie on the final three holes for the one-stroke victory. And in 2019 JGAA play, the Scottsdale resident entered six events, winning half of them and placing second in two others.
Chandler’s Jennifer Seo, who finished T26 in last year’s Thunderbird Invitational, is starting 2021 on the right foot, with a T3 at the Warren Schutte Invitational, T4 at New Year’s Classic, T5 at Fisher-Bryan Invitational and runner-up at Phoenix Metro Jr Championship.
Sammy Olson of Phoenix is looking for her next JGAA win since the 2019 New Year’s Classic. In 2020 she finished 21st at the Thunderbird Invitational, and so far this year, she posted a T6 at the Warren Schutte Invitational, T4 at the New Year Classic and a T7 at the Fisher-Bryan Invitational.
The PING Junior Masters Series consists of five tournaments held at some of the most prestigious courses in Arizona. Debuting in 2015, the PING Junior Masters Series is a series of invitation-only tournaments tailored to Arizona junior golfers with the desire and ability to compete locally against their top-ranked peers. The field for the events is limited to junior golfers who are invited to compete by their national ranking by Junior Golf Scoreboard – boys must be in the top 3,500 and girls in the top 1,500.
“Our goal is to provide a competitive place for aspiring players to play,” said Alex Clark, Chairman of the Board of the JGAA. “This tournament series will allow kids to earn national-level points and will serve as a launching pad for nationally chartered events.”
The Thunderbirds were founded in 1937 with the mission of promoting the Valley of the Sun through sports. The Thunderbirds consist of 55 “active” members and more than 250 “life” members. In 2020 The Thunderbirds raised a record $14 million for charity from proceeds from this year’s tournament and have eclipsed $161 million in charitable giving since its inception in 1932. For more information on The Thunderbirds or the Waste Management Phoenix Open, visit www.wmphoenixopen.com.