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Abilene Country Club
Abilene, Texas • July 18 - 21

Teammates Smith and O'Connell will battle for first in Final Round

ABILENE, Texas —Ryan Myers, 17, of Flint, Texas, continued his impressive play Wednesday as he shot an even-par 72 during the second round of the Abilene Reporter-News/Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior to stay atop the Boys Division. Teammates from Permian High School in Odessa, Texas, share the spot at the top of the leader board in the Girls Division. Raelyn Smith, 17, and Megan O'Connell, 17, each carded two-day scores of 152 to be tied for first going into Thursday's final round.

Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the 25th edition of the Abilene Reporter-News/Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior is held at Fairway Oaks Country Club. The 54-hole event will showcase 120 of the nation's premier golfers, ages 12-18. Seven states will be represented at this week's event, including 102 Texans. Past champions of the event include PGA Tour veterans Phil Mickelson and Scott Verplank.

Myers, who finished three strokes ahead of the Boys Division following the first round, shot an even-par 72 to maintain his lead Wednesday. Myers hit seven greens-in-regulation on his way to recording a 1-under-par 35 on the back nine. Myers has a two-stroke lead going into Thursday's final round.

“I tried to hit the greens, make putts and keep it in the fairway today,” Myers said. “It feels good to have a cushion so I can afford a few bad shots.”

Two strokes behind Myers is Blaine Butner of Wewoka, Okla., who carded a 2-under-par 70 Wednesday. Butner is alone in second place at 2-under-par 142. William Johnson of Longview, Texas, Jeffrey Edelman of Southlake, Texas, and Andy Choi of Orlando, Fla., are each tied for third with two-day scores of 1-under-par 143.

O'Connell, who started Wednesday sitting in second place after a first round score of 3-over-par 75, shot a 5-over-par 77 to end the second round at 152. O'Connell dealt with wind that picked up during her round but said her putting was the strong point of her day.

“It feels good to be in the final group,” O'Connell said. “It feels good to have a chance to win.”

To add a win to O'Connell's resume, she will have to fend off her roommate for the tournament, and teammate during the academic year, Raelyn Smith.

Smith ended with a two-day score of 8-over-par 152 after carding a 2-over-par 74 during the second round. Starting the round Wednesday in the fifth place position, Smith will compete for her first AJGA championship Thursday. Smith finished fourth in last year's event, her best AJGA finish to date.

“I started off slow but I was going for fairways today,” Smith said. “I was trying to improve upon yesterday.”

In a three-way tie for third going into the final round are Kendel Argo of Carrollton, Texas, Tracy Stanford of Midland, Texas, and Megan O'Donnell of Houston, Texas, with two-day totals of 156.

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.

The final round of the Abilene Reporter-News/Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior will begin at 7:00 a.m., Thursday off Fairways Oaks Country Club's No. 1 tee. For more information about the Abilene Reporter-News/Lawrence Hall Abilene Junior call tournament headquarters at (325) 698-4971 ext. 218.