Koo, 15, tied for AZ Stroke Play lead
Peter Kyo Won Koo, a 15-year-old from Chandler who plays golf for Hamilton High School, summed it up in one word when told he had a share of the lead at the midpoint of the Arizona Stroke Play Championship.
“Cool,’’ said Koo, who carded a one-under-par 69 at the TPC Scottsdale’s Champions Course on Friday, a number that got him to one-under 139 along with Tucson teen-ager Alex McMahon, Scottsdale’s Andrew Medley and Justin Harding, an Arizona State student from Fredericksburg, Va.
“My coach said that Hamilton guys have done well in this tournament in the past. Truthfully, I didn’t even know about this tournament until a week ago. But now that I’m close, I’m going to try (to win it).’’
Koo, McMahon (65), Medley (67) and Harding (69) are one shot better than Apache Junction’s Camron Howell (70). Among the other notables, first-round leader Michael Wog (75) of Scottsdale was in a tie for eighth place at 4-over.
But like Koo said, he’s got a little history going for him. The last four Stroke Play Championships have been won by Chan Kim (2008, 2010) and Andrew Yun (2007, 2009), both former Hamilton High alums. Koo could make it a Hamilton High five in a row.
“My coach (Sinclair Torrilhon) is really excited about it,’’ said Koo, chuckling. “I’m just surprised, really, because all I was trying to do was shoot low scores.’’
Koo, who already plays No. 2 man for Hamilton, recently captured the Thunderbird Invitational sponsored by the Junior Golf Association of Arizona. And since he already has qualified for next week’s AJGA Heather Farr Classic at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, this week had been more or less a primer “between tournaments.’’
“It’s been kind of an unusual week,’’ conceded Koo, who moved to the Valley a little over a year ago from Kent, Wash. “Like the first day I had a double bogey, an eagle and only six pars, whereas (Friday) was more my usual game – four birdies and three bogeys that included a couple of three-putts.
“And like my caddie situation is pretty unusual, too. (Saturday) I’ll have my third caddie of the week, although he’s a good friend of mine (Michael Choir) and is going to be with me for the last two rounds.’’
Like Koo, Harding also is playing in his first AGA event. The 22-year-old junior at ASU said he took this semester off just to concentrate on his game.
“I’m kind of unique to this because I didn’t start playing competitively until my junior or senior year in high school,’’ said Harding, whose 69 also included four birdies and three bogeys.
“I had a chance to play golf at George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth, but it was too cold so I came to ASU hoping I could try out for the team. But they don’t have tryouts here, so I’m playing where I can. Mostly in Pepsi Tour events as an amateur.’’
McMahon’s 65 was the best round of the week, and Medley’s 67 was next-best. McMahon, who will play golf for the University of Arizona this fall, finished in a tie for seventh at last month’s AZ Publinks, while Medley is a former Wildcat and ex-professional who got his amateur status back three years ago.
The 36-hole cut came at 151 with 64 players advancing to the weekend. Play begins Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 a.m.