Pierceson Coody and Yuka Saso capture the 2018 Thunderbird International Junior

Junior Champs:  Yuka Saso of Manila, Philippines and Pierceson Coody of Plano, Texas

Sensational sand saves down the stretch characterized the boys’ finish on Memorial Day at Grayhawk Golf Club. On the final hole of regulation play, Texas’ Pierceson Coody led by one stroke over James Song of California. Song pulled off a slippery downhill sand save to force a playoff; then Coody followed with an extraordinary fairway bunker approach to force a second extra hole. Minutes later, Song played a similar approach from the same bunker, but unfortunately it found the water, leaving the door open for Coody to take the championship with a par. Coody (68-69-67) and Song (68-67-69) were the only players in the tournament to fire all three rounds in the 60s, posting 6-under-par 204s (par 70).

In the Girls Division, Yuka Saso of the Philippines topped the field by three strokes with a wire-to-wire victory at 7-under-par 209 (67-72-70). Four players – Brooke Seay, Rachel Heck, Sadie Englemann and Yealimi Noh – finished T2 at 4-under-par 212 (par 72). 

Surprise, Arizona resident Ashley Menne posted 2-under-par 214 (71-71-72) five strokes off the pace. The top-10 finish ensures her spot in next year’s field. In a post-tournament interview, she admitted that she “could have definitely made more birdies” in the final round, and that overall “I still played good; I’m not complaining at all. I’m glad I made it to this tournament. It was a very fun experience.” Interestingly, Menne went 6-under par on two short par 4s on Raptor, Nos. 6 and 17. 

Menne cited the local Junior Golf Association of Arizona (JGAA) as instrumental in preparing for the Thunderbird International Junior.

Menne, a verbal Sun Devils commit, will need to further hone her game on the way to the next level, and the Thunderbird International Junior is a great place to start. It featured 78 of the top boys and girls junior golfers from around the world; 51 players have committed to play college golf; 17 countries and 17 states were represented; and according to the Rolex AJGA Rankings, seven of the top-10 girls and five of the top-10 boys competed.

Stiff competition is just the beginning. In Thunderbird fashion, charitable giving is just as important as the tournament itself. Each player in the field is able to designate $1,000 to a charity of their choice. Since 2000, more than $300,000 has been given back in honor of Thunderbird International Junior participants.