More than 20 years ago, Phil Mickelson challenged The Thunderbirds to host the ultimate junior golf tournament. So they did! It’s called the Thunderbird International Junior, and it has featured the best junior golfers in the world since teeing off on the AJGA calendar in 2000.
Co-Tournament Chairman, Mike Kennedy, shared the unique story of the event’s beginning. Click the video below to watch!
As Kennedy mentioned, the tournament has grown into one of the most competitive junior golf events in the world. In fact, the collaboration between The Thunderbirds and the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation has been so successful, he now competes against many of its past participants.
Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Brian Harman, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Ryo Ishikawa, Hunter Mahan, and Jordan Spieth top the list. Same goes for the girls. Paula Creamer, Inbee Park, Alison Lee, Lexi Thompson, Belen Mozo, Jessica Wallace and Brittany Lang also made the cut at the professional level.
Who will be the next to join this list?!
Twin brothers Parker and Pierceson Coody have a strong golf pedigree — their grandpa is Charles Coody, 1971 Masters Champion. Sean Maruyama is also from a golf family. His father, Shigeki Maruyama, racked up three wins on the PGA TOUR and nine internationally.
[ngg_images gallery_ids=”47″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_basic_slideshow” cycle_interval=”3″]
Recently, Thai phenom Paphangkorn Tavatanakit gave it a go at an LPGA Major, the ANA Inspiration, but missed the cut by two. She’s currently ranked No. 1 on the AJGA Rankings (as of 5/9/17).
North Carolina’s Emilia Migliaccio is the second-highest-ranked girl in the field and No. 3 overall in the AJGA Rankings, while Rachel Heck from Tennessee sits one spot behind Migliaccio (T4). Alyaa Abdulghany, the Southern California sensation from Newport Beach, sits in the 8th spot overall in the Girls AJGA Rankings.
Khavish Varadan, Malaysian native by way of Florida, is the highest-ranked player on the boys side in the field. Among his accomplishments, he captured AJGA's The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf at TPC Sawgrass last year.
Another likely contender, Michael Sanders, truly exemplifies the special tenets associated with the game of golf. In fact, he earned the AJGA’s 2016 Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award Winner. His story is chronicled in this video.
A Junior Golf Tradition Like No Other
No matter who wins the 2017 Thunderbird International Junior, all of the competitors will walk away with an enriching experience. An experience that prepares them for the next challenge; an experience that ties together borders and cultures with the common thread of golf; an experience that can best be described as a junior golf tradition like no other.