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Drew Lagan carded a 74 to grab a two-shot lead on Day 1 of the Hall of Fame Junior Championship.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
FINCASTLE — Heading to Botetourt Golf & Swim Club on Saturday, the top players in the field for the 40th Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame Junior field had red on their minds as the set out to play the 5,711-yard course.
Then Mother Nature decided to intervene.
In what turned into a round of golf played in a veritable wind tunnel, the field got blown away by the turbulent, swirling gusts of 30 mph. Forget red numbers on the scoreboard. It was the players’ faces that wound up red.
Assisted greatly by a late-round collapse by two-time defending champion Korey Watts of Ashley Plantation, Hidden Valley’s Drew Lagan birded the final hole for a 4-over-par 74 that left him two shots clear of teammate Garrett Sweeney and Blacksburg Country Club’s Ty Olinger heading into today’s final round at Hanging Rock.
Bidding to become the first three-time winner in the event’s history, Watts played a late three-hole stretch in 6 over and limped home in 77 to squander what would have been a comfortable cushion.
“You were thinking coming here that you’d better shoot a sub-70 round on a 5,700-yard course,’’ said Lagan, 17, a junior at Cave Spring. “I mean I haven’t played that kind of yardage since I was 13.
“But, man, it was really tough out there with the howling winds. I think the scores show that. They’re certainly not going to look so great coming from such a short course, but in reality it was playing very difficult. All I can say is I never expected to have a two-shot lead at all, but I’ll take it and run.
“It’s nice having a two-shot lead. Oh, God, the last time I won something? I can’t remember. I won a couple one-day RVGA Junior events, but a two-day event I haven’t ever won. So I going to try to go out and keep hitting it like I have been.”
Paced by Lagan, Sweeney and John Lyle (78), Hidden Valley built a seven-shot lead over Ashley Plantation in a bid to claim the Salem club’s first junior team title since 2004.
Watts’ untidy late play was the story of the day. The 17-year-old James River senior had chipped in twice for birdie and was holding steady at 1 over through 15 holes.
Then, disaster struck as he double-bogeyed the 281-yard par-4 15th, and failed to get up and down from the front of the green and made bogey at the par-3 16th. Watts then lost his tee shot out of bounds on No. 17, hit his second drive way left into the trees and then struggled to a triple bogey-8.
“Mental error ... extreme mental error on all three [holes],’’ Watts said. “I’m just rusty. This was my first competitive round since high school golf last fall. I’m just rusty.”
Watts, who will begin his college golf career at Radford this fall, didn’t blame his fade job on his left hand and wrist, both of which required stitches after he ran his arm through a plate glass garage window 10 days ago playing basketball at home with his older brother, David. Watts, who had the stiches removed Monday, was forced to withdraw from last week’s Scott Robertson Memorial.
“I’m OK,’’ he said. “I’m just hoping I will play better [today].”
Sweeney, a Salem High senior, and Olinger, a Blacksburg High sophomore, each will be bidding for the biggest title of their careers today.
“It would be nice to pick it off since its my last chance,’’ Sweeney said. “I thought 68 would be the leader here. It’s 5,700 yards, come on. But that wind was awful. I hit a hard 3-iron like 175 [yards] and that’s crazy, it took 30 yards off that shot. If you got above the hole on the greens the ball was running out a ton. And chip shots, you got no check on the ball — I chipped two completely off the green.
“I wouldn’t say 76 was a good round, but it was good enough to hang around.”
Olinger, 15, thought he had one birdie until he found out after the round that the 466-yard sixth hole — listed as a par-5 on the scorecard — was being played as a par-4 Saturday.
“I thought there would be a few decent scores,” said the left-hander after getting his first look at the course. “In normal conditions, you’re talking about 68 being the leader. But they had the course set up tough, they had a few good pins and it was really, really windy so it made things a lot harder.’’
Roanoke Country Club’s Andrew Butts is tied for fourth with Watts, three shots back.
“None of us really played that bad, the wind just took it out of you,” he said.
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