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Every Memorial Day weekend 2000-2019, the world’s best junior golfers gathered at Grayhawk Golf Club to compete in the Thunderbird International Junior – an event that grew into one of the most prestigious tournaments on the AJGA calendar. Co-sponsor Phil Mickelson played AJGA golf from 1985-1989 – posting 12 victories in 26 events – the most individual career boys titles in AJGA history.

Recently making history as the oldest major championship winner, his sixth, Mickelson still competes on tour against many players who played in the Thunderbird International Junior such as Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff, Ryan Moore, Hunter Mahan, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth.

And speaking of major champions:  Two Thunderbird International Junior champions have gone on to win majors. Brittany Lang from McKinney, Texas, won the 2002 Thunderbird International Junior, and topped the field at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2016 while Yuka Saso of the Philippines won the 2018 Thunderbird International Junior as well as the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open. Other notable LPGA players to compete in the Thunderbird International Junior include Paula Creamer, Inbee Park, Alison Lee, Lexi Thompson, Belen Mozo and Jessica Wallace.

Mickelson’s Valley connection goes back to his college days at ASU. After turning pro, he became an ambassador for Grayhawk and still sports the club’s logo on his bag. The Captain of the Club, Del Cochran, and Mike Kennedy are both members of The Thunderbirds, the civic-minded organization behind the WM Phoenix Open. Together they hatched a plan to host a world-class competition with unparalleled hospitality, thereby creating the ultimate “players” event.

2019 Recap:  Thunderbird International Junior

Digger Smith Award

The Thunderbird International Junior earned many honors: AJGA’s Tournament of the Year; Volunteer of the Year; Hospitality of the Year; and in 2010 Kennedy and Cochran earned the Digger Smith Award.

Named after the AJGA’s chairman, the award has been presented annually since 1991 to those with longtime dedication to junior golf. The award reflects The Thunderbird’s aim to improve the quality of life in the local communities. Each year, players designate a benefitting charity and The Thunderbirds donate $1,000 to that charity in their name.

“One of the things that Mike and I are really proud of is the fact that we’ve given more than $500,000 to charities,” Cochran said. “That means that every participant has made a positive impact in somebody’s life.”


2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010,
2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000