LONGMEADOW, MA (July, 19, 2005) -- Sam Saunders, 17, of Windermere, Fla., made six birdies in his first 12 holes Tuesday morning before “settling” for a 65 and a 36-hole total of 7-under-par 133 to put a loose hold on stroke-play medalist honors at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Longmeadow Country Club. Seventy-eight more golfers will complete their second round in the afternoon, but Saunders could be hard to catch.
A talented young golfer in a linebacker’s body, Saunders is best known for being the grandson of Arnold Palmer. And with his 5-under-par round over the 6,673-yard layout, Saunders will march into match play confidently, just like his grandfather used to do.
“I would be honored to be medalist,” said Saunders, allowing himself to think ahead at what might be. “That’s one of the coolest things to me – to get that medal.”
So far, Saunders is two strokes ahead of his closest finisher, Joe Monte, 16, of Chantilly, Va., who posted a 1-over 71 a day after tying the course record with a 64. Jamie Lovemark, 17, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., who played in the same group as Saunders, was in at 136. Last year’s runner-up David Chung, 15, of Fayetteville, N.C., was another stroke back.
Defending champion Sihwah Kim, 16, of Fullerton, Calif., was at 3-under 67 for 18 holes and is playing his second round Tuesday afternoon.
Kim, Saunders and Monte are all powerfully built, while Chung is all of 5 feet, 7 inches and 110 pounds in a soaking rain.
Saunders, who had a hole-in-one Monday en route to a 68, is all alone, too, in carrying his own bag in the hot, sticky New England summer weather, made even worse by the backlash of hurricane Dennis passing through.
“I like to carry my own bag,” said Saunders, who won the Florida state 1A high school title by five strokes this spring. “When you’re this big, carrying a little golf bag is nothing.”
At week’s end, Saunders would like to have the chance to do something his grandfather never had the chance to do – win the Junior Amateur. Palmer turned 18 before the USGA initiated the championship in 1948.
“If I get that far, I’d have to give him a call and see if he can come out here,” said Saunders, who has caddied for Palmer on several occasions, including his final Masters appearance in April. “I think I’ve got a pretty good chance.”
Following the second round of stroke play, the field of 156 will be trimmed to the low 64 scorers, who will advance to Wednesday’s first round of match play. The championship continues through Saturday, with a 36-hole final to determine the winner.
The cut to match play should fall near 6-over-par 146 at the day’s end.