McDonald cruising at the Trusted Choice Big "I"

MADISON, Miss. (Aug. 3, 2011) – Mississippi’s own Ally McDonald (Fulton, Miss.) distanced herself from the pack in the Girls Division while several players on the Boys’ side jockeyed for position on the leaderboard during the third round of the Trusted Choice® Big “I” National Championship Wednesday at Reunion Golf & Country Club.

McDonald, last year’s second-place finisher, began Wednesday’s round tied for the lead after shooting even-par-72 during each of the first two rounds. She sunk eightbirdies against four bogeys Wednesday to finish 4-under-par at 72-72-68—212 for the tournament with an eight-shot lead going into the final round. Now playing in her final junior tournament, the entering freshman at Mississippi State University said she did not want to leave anything to chance.

“You can’t play like you have a lead,” she said. ”You have to play like you’re down. I’m going to play like we’re neck and neck and hope to have another good round.”

Taylor Totland of Tinton Falls, N.J., (69-75-76—220) led by three strokes over McDonald after the first round and finished tied with her for the lead after the second. At 4-over-par, Totland currently finds herself in second place with a two-stroke cushion over Emily Haas of Nicholasville, Ken., who sits at 6–over-par (75-76-71—222).

With five players at even-par or better for the tournament, the Boys Division is a much tighter race. J.T. Poston of Hickory, N.C., an entering freshman at Western Carolina University, currently sits on top at 5-under-par (72-69-70—211).

“You have to hit in the fairway on this course,” he said. “You go from knocking it on the green from the fairway to just trying to get it close from the rough. Luckily I’ve been hitting a lot of fairways and making a lot of putts.”

Breathing room is sparse, however, as Trevor Cone of Concord, N.C., (73-68-71—212) and Austin Smotherman of Loomis, Calif., (68-73-72—213) are one and two shots back, respectively. The three leaders began the day in a three-way tie at 3-under-par. Cone will join the golf team at Virginia Tech in the fall, and Smotherman has committed to play for UC Davis.

Thursday also saw the completion of the Patrick Cannon Memorial National Long Drive Championships, in which McDonald and Smotherman were both finalists.

Drew Comer of Fort Smith, Ark., earned the trophy in the Boys Division with a 325-yard bomb. Sarah Storandt of Moorehead, Minn., won the Girls Division with a 255-yard blast.

Thursday’s final-round tee times will be at 7:30 am off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees Wednesday and Thursday. Leaders in the Girls and Boys divisions will tee off at 8:51 and 9:27 a.m., respectively. An awards ceremony will immediately follow final-round play.

Renowned as the nation’s largest junior stroke-play golf tournament, the Trusted Choice® Big “I” National Championship is one of the longest running junior golf events in the country. This year’s field features top junior golfers from 36 states who advanced from qualifying tournaments held around the nation. Previous participants include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Kellee Booth and Grace Park.

ABOUT THE Big I National Championship

72-Hole Championship with a cut after 36 holes. Low 54 boys and 27 girls and all ties will make the cut.

Some 4,000 boys and girls attempt to qualify every year to participate in the 167 player field. The Trusted Choice Big "I" has qualifying opportunities in more than 44 states. If not exempt, you must attempt to qualify through your state of residence.

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