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Bellefonte Country Club
Ashland, Ky. • June 21 - 24

Solid putting proves key at Bellefonte

ASHLAND, Ky.-- Travis Smith of Terre Haute, Ind., fired a 5-under-par 65 at the first round of the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior and is currently in first place in the Boys Division. In the Girls Division, Jessica Smith of Louisville, Ky., shot a 2-over-par 72 to take the lead.

Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior is a 54-hole stroke play event and is being held at the Bellefonte Country Club. The tournament features 90 boys and 30 girls, ages 12-18, from 22 states and Canada.

Smith, 18, who qualified for the tournament on Monday, solidified his score by carding birdies on the last two holes. Smith had 13 putts on the front side and only 11 on the back side. Besides his putter, Smith relied on his 3-iron to help himself stay out of trouble.

“My putting was awesome today and every time I hit the fairway I had a birdie,” Smith said. “Since this is my first AJGA event I just wanted to finish in the Top 10. I didn't know what to expect coming in because there are so many good players here.”

Matt Becker of Columbia, S.C., is three strokes behind in second place with a 2-under-par 68. In third place is Cody Gribble of Dallas, with a 1-under-par 69 and in fourth place is Matt Savage of Louisville, Ky., with an even-par 70.

Solid putting was also the key to Jessica Smith's success at Bellefonte Country Club. Smith had only 12 putts on the front nine, chipped in for birdie on No. 7 and went on to birdie hole Nos. 8, 10 and 11.

“Whenever I needed a good break, I got it,” Smith said. “My goal was to get in the Top Five coming in and have a good showing at this tournament, and so far I have done just that.”

Ashley Baker of Dublin, Ohio, and Mallory Blackwelder of Versailles, Ky., are tied for second place with 74s. Only one shot behind are Jennifer Johnson of Carlsbad, Calif., and Whitney Neuhauser of Barboursville, Va., who are tied for fourth place with scores of 75.

Another addition to the excitement of today's first round was a hole-in-one on No. 3 made by Jonathan Bowers of Upper Arlington, Ohio. Bower used his 9-iron on the 136-yard par 3 to attain his third hole-in-one.

“This was my best hole-in-one yet,” Bowers said. “It was surreal. I was pretty shocked and was yelling all over the course. I had to apologize to my group for all the excitement.”

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 AJGA, the largest Association of its kind, 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, a supporter of the AJGA since 1983, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004.

AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 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 begin at 7:00 a.m. Thursday on the No. 1 tee at Bellefonte Country Club. For more information, call tournament headquarters at (606) 324-2107 ext. 252.