CROWDED LEADERBOARD HIGHLIGHTS FIRST ROUND AT MINDMATTERS
Three tied for Boys Division lead, Cho leads Girls Division by four shots
BLAIRSVILLE, Pa. — Brian Belden of Emmaus, Pa., Eric Onesi of Bear, Del., and Scott Saal of Virginia Beach, Va., carded opening-rounds of 4-under-par 68 to share the lead after the first round of the MindMatters Junior Championship. Henna Cho of Buena Park, Calif., fired the only sub-par round in the Girls Division and leads at 3-under-par 69.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the MindMatters Junior Championship features 75 boys and 24 girls, ages 12 — 18, from 21 states and Canada, including 40 of Pennsylvania's own. The Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort & Conference Center — Tom's Run is hosting the 54-hole stroke play event for the first time.
Hitting eight fairways and 14 greens in regulation, Belden played flawless golf through No. 15, carding three consecutive birdies on the back-nine, and six total.
“In the first round, all you want to do is get in contention, and I did that,” said Belden, who was the 2003 tournament champion. “I feel like my game is coming around and a win here would boost my confidence.”
Playing the course blind, Onesi attributed his low round, which included five birdies and only one bogey, to his putting.
“I'm used to these greens already,” Onesi said. “I want to play smart tomorrow. There were a couple of pins I didn't attack today because I didn't know the greens. I got in, out and made par.”
Saal's putter was also the key to his leading round. Using only 28 putts on the day, Saal delivered a string of pars and four birdies to seal his place atop the leaderboard.
“The longest putt I had to make was 10 feet,” Saal said, who is coming off a win at the Virginia State Junior. “Obviously, I need to play solid again and make some more birdies.”
A cluster of five players are tied at 3-under-par 69 and sit one stroke behind the trio of leaders: Dennis Kwon of Rockville, Md., William Miller of McMurray, Pa., A.J. Olson of White Bear Lake, Minn., Michael Soowal of Blue Bell, Pa., and Kyle Stough of Laurel, Md.
In the Girls Division, Cho leads after overcoming a series of obstacles. Many players would panic after losing their luggage and golf clubs, and bogeying the first hole, but not Cho, who birdied No. 2 and finished 2-under-par on the front-nine.
Her hot streak continued on the back-nine, as she chipped in from 50 feet to eagle the par-4 No.12, and then follow it up with a birdie.
“My drives and putts were really saving me today,” said Cho, who is leading an AJGA event for her first time. “I hope I can do this again tomorrow and stay even-par.”
Margaret Pentrack of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Sarah Thead of Poway, Calif., are tied for second at 1-over-par 73, 4-shots behind Cho. Kristen Schelling of Mesa, Ariz., and Kristina Wong of Vestal, N.Y., are tied for fourth, carding 2-over-par 74s.
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The largest Association of its kind, the AJGA has a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 30 foreign countries.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which enters its third decade of support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 200 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 280 wins. AJGA alumni include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Dottie Pepper, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Beth Bauer.
Second-round tee-times will run from 7:30 a.m. — 12:18 p.m. at the Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort & Conference Center — Tom's Run. For more information on the MindMatters Junior Championship, please contact Tournament Headquarters at (724) 459-7188.