Zane Thomas wielded a hot putter for three steamy days last year when he led from start to finish in the Las Vegas Junior Open at Anthem Country Club.
To repeat his victory in the American Junior Golf Association event, the Arbor View High School senior-to-be will need his putter to keep pace with the thermometer today through Thursday at Anthem.
“Right now my game’s not the best,” Thomas said. “My putter’s been in timeout lately. But hopefully I’ll get it going this week.”
Thomas, who has orally committed to UNLV, is banking on his familiarity with the course and ability to play in warm weather. Temperatures are expected to reach triple digits, which could prove troublesome for some competitors.
“I definitely think it gives me an advantage,” said Thomas, who won by five strokes last year. “But there’s a lot of players from Las Vegas in the field who are also used to the heat. We all know the course, but I’m comfortable with the greens and their speed, so I think I should be all right.”
Thomas said his victory last year boosted his confidence.
“It showed me I could play with the best players in the country and beat them,” he said.
The victory also helped put an end to his college recruitment. When UNLV coach Dwaine Knight offered Thomas a scholarship, he quickly accepted.
“It’s nice not having to worry about college,” he said. “I’ve been able to concentrate on golf, and I think it’s helped.”
Thomas finished second to Foothill’s Taylor Montgomery in the Class 4A state tournament last month, and they’ll square off again this week. Montgomery recently won the Southern Nevada Amateur at Legacy Golf Club.
Coronado’s A.J. McInerney, who won the 2009 AJGA event in Las Vegas and also plans to attend UNLV in 2012, is expected to play, as is Coronado product Tad Darland, who will attend San Diego State.
Several local players will compete in the girls division, led by Jenny Hahn, who last week won her first AJGA title in the PING Junior Open in Phoenix. Hahn attends Green Valley Christian but played at Green Valley High and helped lead the Gators to the 4A state championship last fall.
“I’ve been striking the ball well,” she said. “It’s given me a lot of confidence heading into this week.”
Hahn, who has accepted a scholarship to Vanderbilt for 2012, was third last year at Anthem. She will be joined in the field this week by Green Valley teammate Alex Kaui, who edged Hahn for the 4A state individual title last fall.
Faith Lutheran’s Anne Freman, who was third at state, also is in the girls, field along with Dana Finklestein of Chandler, Ariz., who finished fourth at Anthem last year and will attend UNLV this fall.
The 54-hole, stroke-play event begins at 7:30 a.m each day. Admission is free.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.