PAIR OF KENTUCKY NATIVES LEAD AT NATRUAL RESOURCE PARTNERS BLUEGRASS JUNIOR
Thomas opens with 64 to lead Boys Division, Koller cards 3-over-par, leads Girls Division
ASHLAND, Ky. â€“ Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky., carded seven birdies enroute to his first-round 64, and sits atop the Boys Division leaderboard at 6-under-par. In the Girls Division another Kentucky native leads. Nikki Koller of Lewisburg, Ky., shot an opening round 3-over-par 73.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior is being played at the Bellefonte Country Club. The tournament field consists of 119 players, 90 boys and 29 girls from 19 states. The Boys Division is being played at 6,028 yards and the Girls Division at 5,625 yards.
Thomas, 15, got off to a strong start with a birdie on No. 1, but a bogey on No. 4 set him back. He quickly overcame the deficit and birdied No. 5 to gain some momentum.
â€śAccuracy is important on this course,â€ť Thomas said. â€śThe longest putt I made today was fifteen feet. I made a lot of birdies because I was hitting it close to the hole, not because I was making great putts.â€ť
The momentum carried on when Thomas made the turn. With four consecutive birdies and five pars to finish the back nine, Thomas found himself just one shot off the course record 63, shot in a previous Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior.
Matt Buse of Loveland, Ohio opened with a 2-under-par 68 and sits in second. In third, with the only other under-par round of the day is Dustin Korte of Metropolis, Ill. A five-way tie for fourth has Sean Lombardo of Dublin, Ohio, Craig Osterbrock of Wilmington, Ohio, Blanton Farmer of Lexington, Ky., Jim Liu of Smithtown, N.Y., and Brandon Rodgers of Knoxville, Tenn., all at even-par 70.
Travis Thompson of Benton, Ky., added another highlight in the Boys Division on No. 3, when he aced the 140-yard par-3 with a 9-iron.
Koller also from the home state of Kentucky leads the Girls Division after a start much like that of Thomas. Opening with a birdie on the par-5 first hole, her start also derailed momentarily on No. 4 when she carded a double-bogey six after a difficult four-putt.
â€śThat hole shook me up a bit and I tried to recover,â€ť Koller said. â€śThankfully, I made some pars and then never got into trouble after that.â€ť
Two-strokes back at 5-over-par 75 is Kyung Kim of Chandler, Ariz. In a three-way tie for third is Simin Feng of Orlando, Fla., Emma Talley of Princeton, Ky., and Darlea Carr of Pinehurst, N.C., after first-round scores of 77.
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 49 states and more than 25 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 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 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.
For more information about the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior please contact Preston Etheridge at tournament headquarters at 606-326-1741 or visit the AJGA Web site at ajga.org.
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