JGAA Thunderbird Invitational preview

PHOENIX, Arizona (February 22, 2012) – Papago, designed by renowned golf course architect Billy Bell and built in 1962 and recently renovated, will be the host site for the 18th annual Thunderbird Invitational which features some of the state’s finest junior golfers. This year’s event will be played on March 3-4.

This year’s boys field will include defending Thunderbird Invitational champion Peter Koo, of Chandler, who also won the 2011 Arizona Stroke Play Championship. Other top finishers from the 2011 Thunderbird Invitational include Blake Toolan, who finished 2nd, as well as Zach Wright and Jamie Waltmire, who finished tied for 3rd. Toolan finished 3rd in the 2011 Boys State Championship as well as qualified for the USGA Junior Amateur Championship along with Zach Wright. In 2011, Wright finished 2nd in the Boys State Championship while winning the Phoenix City Junior Championship at Aguila with scores of 67-64. Waltmire’s 2011 resume includes a 3rd place finish in the Mesa City Junior Championship and 4th place finish at the Phoenix City Junior Championship.

A talented field of girls will include Saki Iida, of Gilbert, who finished 2nd in last year’s event. Iida’s other 2011 accomplishments include winning the Thunderbird Junior Classic and Phoenix City Junior Championship while finishing 2nd in the Girls State Championship. Also competing in the 15-18 Girls Division will be Madison Kerley, of Chandler and Krystal Quihuis who both tied for 5th in the 2011 Thunderbird Invitational. Kerley won the 2011 Tucson City Junior Championship and finished 3rd in the Girls State Championship. Quihuis finished 3rd in the 2011 Tucson City Junior Championship and 2nd in the Willie Low Invitational.

Several players in the field have signed a letter of intent to play college golf next fall. In the Boys 15-18 Division, Kale Davidson has signed with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Kolton Lapa with University of Nebraska, Brett Wilson with Colorado State University; and Zach Wright with Louisiana State University. Working in tandem with the Thunderbirds and the Junior Golf Association of Arizona, the 18th annual Thunderbird Invitational will feature 60 of the state’s finest junior golfers whose participants range in age from 13-18 and are placed within their respective age groups. Tee times get underway at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and 9:00 a.m. on Sunday. Spectators are welcome.

“The Thunderbirds work within the world of golf is unrivaled and while so much attention is focused on their sponsorship of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the most well-attended golf tournament in the world, it is their continual efforts with Arizona’s junior golfer that deserves accolades as well,” said Tom Cunningham, Executive Director of the Junior Golf Association of Arizona. “The Thunderbirds are very much connected with this tournament not only financially, but they volunteer their time to assist with registration, starting, spotting on the course and scoring. This event hones the competitive skills of some of our finest junior golfers, who often times, use this event as a springboard for the rest of their JGAA schedule.”

For a complete list of the playing field for the 18th annual Thunderbird Invitational, visit the Junior Golf Association of Arizona web site at or call their office at (602) 944-6168.