The junior golf circuit had one of its "majors" this week and several local players took a shot by making the field through exemptions.

The Phoenix Ping Junior is considered one of the better summer events in the nation and is in its 21st year.

It is a 54-hole, stroke play event at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix open to boys and girls ages 12 to 18. The event started Tuesday and goes through Thursday.

Local players include Mountain Pointe's Mike Anderson and the Desert Vista contingent of Colton Estevez, Matt Lirings, Randy Ross and Cody McManus.

Anderson looks to crawl up the leader board after finishing ninth last season.

"It is a great event with players from all over the country," he said. "It is about time to get the competitive juices going again with a tournament like this.

"I haven't played in a (multi-day) tournament in awhile and this is what I need to do to start getting ready for college.

Anderson is heading to Washington State in the fall on a scholarship and he knows his best preparation will be getting on the course.

"I just have to get out and play as much as I can," he said. "Playing is one thing, but to do it against a top field like this really gets you ready."

There is some prestige behind winning the Ping Junior based on some of the former big names that won when they were youths.

Past champions include Tiger Woods (twice), Anthony Kim and Kevin Na on the boys side, while Grace Park (twice), Amanda Blumenherst and Taylor Karle (twice) were female champions.

The Desert Vista contingent shows that future is bright for the Thunder as all of the players will be back next fall.

McManus will be a senior, while the other three players will be sophomores.

"It's a great experience," Paige Peterson said. "Regardless of how they do, playing in these big junior events is the best thing to develop your game because you have to make shots under pressure."

McManus finished tied for second in the Division I state tournament, Lirings was fourth and Estevez tied for 23rd.

Estevez is especially confident heading into the event after winning three times in his last nine starts with titles on the Desert Junior and Southwest Section tours.

Throw in the fact that Moon Valley is the course where he gets his lessons and he expects to make a run at the title.

"I am playing well right now and I am very comfortable with the course," he said. "I know where I need to put it on each hole off the tee. It will be a matter of just going out and executing."

The state of Arizona will be well-represented as 32 local players will compete among the 78-player field, which features the top juniors from 12 states, Canada and Argentina.

Last year's boys division champion - Trey Kaahanui of Tempe - returns to defend his title. Kaahanui, a rising senior at McClintock High School, currently sits at No. 79 in the Polo Golf Rankings.

Zachary Wright of Phoenix (Pinnacle High School) looks to capture another win close to home. The 2011 champion of the Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic hosted by Longbow Golf Club has soared to No. 13 in the Polo Golf Rankings and returns to the PING Phoenix Junior field after placing seventh in 2010.

Lindsey Weaver of Scottsdale leads the charge in the girls division. The three-time Rolex Junior All-American has won an AJGA title in each of the last five years and looks for her first of the 2011 season. Weaver currently sits at No. 31 in the Polo Golf Rankings.

Also leading the local charge is Sarah Schmelzel of Phoenix (Xavier College Prep). Schmelzel is a 2010 honorable mention Rolex Junior All-American and has compiled eight top-10 junior golf finishes in her career.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or

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