CHICAGO, Ill. (June 23, 2011) -- Connor Black shot a 1-under par 70 today to build a four-stroke lead heading into Friday’s final round of the 2011 Western Junior Championship at The Beverly Country Club.
Despite a rough beginning in Thursday’s round, the 15-year-old ended the day at 2-under-par 211 through 54 holes. Two early bogeys briefly knocked Black into second place, but he quickly regained the lead with consecutive birdies on the front nine’s three closing holes.
“I missed a 4-foot putt on [hole] six,” he said. “But I think that really encouraged me to start playing better.”
Though Black managed to maintain his lead and secure his spot as number one going into the final round Friday, his closest competitors jockeyed for second and third place throughout the day. Sixteen-year-old Nico Galletti was alone in second at 2-over-par 215.
“I played well,” said Galletti, from Clayton, Calif. “If I play well again tomorrow, I think I really have a shot to win.”
Three players tied for third at 3-over 216: Brendan Connolly, 18, from Castle Rock, Colo.; Taylor Moore, 17, from Edmond, Okla.; and A.J. Crouch, 18, from Jacksonville, Fla.
Black, a sophomore at Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, Texas, is one of the nation's top-ranked juniors. As a freshman this spring, he won seven of eight high school tournaments and was named the All-Greater Houston Area Boys Player of the Year.
One of the youngest – and certainly not one of the largest – players at the tournament, Black said he doesn’t think his age puts him at a disadvantage.
“That’s the great thing about golf,” he said. “You don’t have to be 220 pounds to be a good golfer."
Black’s score was not the only highlight of the day. Eighteen-year-old William Anderson from Atlanta, Ga. had a perfect start to his round when he made a hole-in-one on his first hole. It was the second hole-in-one of the tournament: 17-year-old Kentaro Toyota had an ace in the first round.
As the juniors prepare physically and mentally for Friday, one of their toughest opponents may not be the other players, but the course itself.
“The course is hard,” said Moore. “The rough is really thick and the greens are fast, too.”
All 73 players will be back at Beverly Friday morning for the final round. Tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue throughout the morning, with the leaders teeing off at 9:30.
The leader at the end of the final round will be named the 94th Western Junior champion and have his name engraved on the Milt Woodard trophy.
The tournament is free and open to the public.
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