WALLER'S STEADY PUTTING HANDS HIM FIRST-ROUND LEAD AT LOCKTON KANSAS CITY JUNIOR
Salazar and Hooton tied for Girls Division lead at The National Golf Club of Kansas City
PARKVILLE, Mo. — Blake Waller of West Des Moines, Iowa, holds a one-stroke lead after one round at the Lockton Kansas City Junior after carding a 3-under-par 69 Tuesday. West Coast youth was served in the Girls Division, as rising sophomores Lauren Salazar of Santa Clara, Calif., and Courtney Hooton of Del Mar, Calif., tied for the lead after signing for rounds of 1-over-par 73.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Lockton Kansas City Junior is a 54-hole stroke-play event being held at The National Golf Club of Kansas City in Parkville, Mo. The tournament field consists of 75 boys and 24 girls, ages 12-18, from 20 states, Canada and China. The Boys Division is playing The National Golf Club of Kansas City course at 6,762 yards, and the Girls Division is playing the course at 5,928 yards, par-72.
Waller got his feet on solid ground early in the round with three straight pars to open the day. He followed with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5, and then breezed back to the clubhouse with two birdies, a bogey and 10 pars.
The 17-year-old Waller, playing this event for the second straight year, pointed to his short game as crucial to his round, as he used his putter a meager 26 times.
“It was definitely the up-and-downs. I went 9-for-11 on up-and-downs,” Waller said. “I only hit 11 greens which isn't very much for me; I usually have 15 or 16. I had a lot of wedges, and I was at about three feet [from the hole] on a lot of those holes, so that's why I made a lot of those putts.”
Trailing Waller in second place is Landon Lyons of Baton Rouge, La., who shot a 2-under-par 70. Curtis Yonke of Overland Park, Kan., Bennett Lavin of Deerfield, Ill., and Kyle Lewis of Shawnee, Okla., each carded a round of 1-under-par 71 and are tied for third.
In the Girls Division, the two young Californians took different paths to the lead.
Salazar followed her front nine, which had just one birdie and one bogey, with a dramatic back nine. She went 4-over-par on the first three holes of the back before following that stretch with three consecutive birdies to return to 1-over-par, where she stayed the remainder of the round.
“I just got a new coach a month ago and he's just been good so far,” Salazar said. “Hinging sooner on my backswing is what we're working on.”
Hooton had a steadier round Tuesday, as she had two birdies and three bogeys to go with 13 pars. Like Waller, a confident putter boosted her score.
“5-foot putts and in I knew I was going to make it because I've been practicing a lot,” Hooton said. “I've been practicing about an hour a night.”
Jane Dong of Fremont, Calif., trails the co-leaders by one stroke after carding a 2-over-par 74.
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 an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of more than 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and more than 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 is in its third decade of AJGA support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Polo Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
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 350 wins. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Cristie Kerr, Pat Hurst, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel and Julieta Granada.
Second-round tee times for the Lockton Kansas City Junior will run from 7:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m. Wednesday, July 22, at The National Golf Club of Kansas City. For more information, please call Tournament Headquarters at (678) 571-7994.