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U.S. Boys' Junior: Fernandez has opening lead

SHOAL CREEK, Ala. (July 22, 2008)--Fifteen-year-old Jorge Fernandez Valdes of Cordoba, Argentina, made 10 birdies and finished with a 7-under-par 65 Monday to hold the first-day lead at the U.S. Junior Amateur at Shoal Creek. He made six birdies on his final nine holes and holds a three-stroke lead over Seth Reeves, 17, of Duluth, Ga.

Defending champion Cory Whitsett, 16, of Houston, Texas; Dashiell Lindsell, 17, of Burlingame, Calif.; Cameron Peck, 17, of Olympia, Wash.; Pat Rodgers, 16, of Avon, Ind.; Sam Smith, 17, of Turlock, Calif.; and Julian Suri, 17, of St. Augustine, Fla., finished with 69s on the 7,251-yard layout that has previously hosted two PGA championships (1984 and 1990) and the 1986 U.S. Amateur.

Play continues Tuesday with the second round of stroke play before the field of 156 players is trimmed to the lowest 64 scorers who will advance to match play. It will take six wins in match play to earn the Junior Amateur title. The 36-hole final match is scheduled for Saturday.

Fernandez Valdes qualified in New Jersey, taking the second of four spots awarded from the qualifier, then headed home to Cordoba for two weeks, a hometown he shares with 2007 U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera.

“Yes, I know the family and I am good friends with his sons,” Fernandez Valdes said. “I have played golf with Cabrera twice. I want to be a professional, but first I want to attend college.”

A high school sophomore who weighs just 125 pounds, Fernandez Valdes is already the No.-4 ranked amateur golfer in Argentina.

The country’s top-ranked amateur, Emiliano Grillo, 15, of Buenos Aires, who was the top qualifier in New Jersey, finished tied for 24th with his 1-over-par 73.

“We are three from Argentina who came here, and we can all play pretty much the same,” said Grillo. “But I can’t make 10 birdies. That is crazy! Maybe I can make six or seven, but not 10.”

Whitsett, who is looking to be the first back-to-back Junior winner since Tiger Woods, was safely positioned to be one of the 64 who advance to match play after two rounds of stroke play. He had four birdies and went without faltering until he bogeyed his final hole of the day.

“In stroke play, you just want to gain momentum for getting into match play,” said the long-hitting left-hander who will be a high school junior. “I’m in pretty good shape.”

He sure is.

Overall, just 13 players finished under par. Ten more players were at even par, including Phillip Choi, 17, of Orlando, Fla., who reached match play at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship last week in Colorado against largely top-ranked college players.

The Junior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the U.S. Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

--Courtesy USGA

View results for U.S. Junior Amateur Golf Champonship

ABOUT THE U.S. Junior Amateur

While it is not the oldest competition, the U.S. Junior Amateur is considered the premier junior competition, having been around since 1948. The event is open to male golfers who have not reached their 18th birthday prior to the close of competition and whose USGA Handicap Index does not exceed 6.4. The U.S. Junior is one of 13 national championship conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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