The Thunderbird Invitational came to a close last weekend and crowned winners in two different divisions after two days of intense competition at Papago Golf Club. Wheaton Ennis (Litchfield Park) took home top honors in the Men’s Championship Division, while Lena Durette (Scottsdale) was the overall winner in the Girl’s Championship Division to earn her first JGAA victory since 2019.

The field featured 82 of Arizona’s best junior golfers (54 boys and 28 girls) ranging in age from 13-18 to compete in the third PING Junior Masters Series tournament on the 2024 JGAA schedule. The PING Junior Masters Series consists of five tournaments held at some of the most prestigious courses in Arizona.

“We couldn’t be happier with how the Thunderbird Invitational turned out this year,” said Scott McNevin, Executive Director of JGAA. “Congratulations to our winners and thank you to The Thunderbirds and Papago Golf Club for hosting an incredible tournament!”

The first-round action of the Thunderbird Invitational began March 9 with Ennis getting off to a hot start with a 4-under 32 on the front nine en route to a first-round 68. He started out the final round a bit shaky with two bogeys in the first four holes but managed to pull away from the group after a noteworthy eagle on the par-5 10th hole. The momentum was in his favor after sinking that eagle putt and he finished the back nine at 2-under par to wrap up the tournament at 6-under (68-70-138).

The future Texas A&M Aggie is putting together a solid start to the 2024 season, with a runner up finish at the Warren Schutte Invitational and now his first title of the year. Ennis is nationally ranked inside the Top-5 at fourth in the current Rolex AJGA Rankings. 2023 JGAA Player of the Year Owen Bolles of Chandler and future University of San Diego Torero Henry Dall of Scottsdale ended up tied for second place at 4-under par, while Ajay Morris of Avondale, Ethan Butters of Chandler and Tyler Anderson of Phoenix all tied for fourth place at 3-under par.

Durette, who competed in the PGA TOUR Champions’ PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach last year, showed dominate consistency throughout the weekend in the Girls Championship division. The emergence of Durette came out in full force after posting the only final-round score in red figures with five birdies on the way to a 1-under 71. She stayed consistent throughout the event after carding back-to-back rounds in the low 70s (72-71) to win by an impressive five strokes. The victory marks her first in the JGAA Girls Championship division and first overall win since 2019.

Jayden Jevnick out of Cave Creek took solo second after finishing at 4-over par with rounds of 74-74. Former JGAA Girls Player of the Year Alexis Vakasiuola of San Tan Valley and Kaitlyn Helm of Litchfield Park tied for third place at 5-over par.

Debuting in 2015, the PING Junior Masters Series is a series of invitation-only tournaments tailored to Arizona junior golfers with the desire and ability to compete locally against their top-ranked peers. The field for the events is limited to junior golfers who are invited to compete by their national ranking by Junior Golf Scoreboard – boys must be in the top 3,500 and girls in the top 1,500. The Thunderbird Invitational, the third tournament in the esteemed PING Junior Masters Series, gathers top-tier high school junior golfers statewide to showcase their skills on a prestigious stage. Proudly sponsored and backed by The Thunderbirds, organizers, and charitable arm of the WM Phoenix Open, this event has enjoyed three decades of support and memories.

The Thunderbirds are big supporters of junior golf in the Valley and have had a longstanding partnership with the JGAA. They have hosted a number of junior golf tournaments including events like The Thunderbird Invitational, The Thunderbird International, The Thunderbird High School Senior Classic and others.

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