By Bill Huffman
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (April 14, 2012) -- Oh what a difference a week can make when it comes to the game of golf. Just ask Zach Wright, the talented senior from Scottsdale’s Pinnacle High School.
A week ago while defending his title in the Heather Farr Classic at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Wright could do no better than tie for 30th place. A week later, he’s got a one-shot lead going into the weekend of the Arizona State Stroke Play Championship.
“Oh, yeah, I was disappointed in a big way,’’ said Wright of last week’s poor showing. “But instead of getting down on myself, I started working on my putting with a little arc device that’s really helped me groove my putting stroke, and now I’m rolling it again.’’
Good enough that he followed his opening one-over-par 71 with a one-under-par 70 on Friday for an even-par total of 141 after 36 holes. The odd number for par occurred because the Arizona Golf Association set up the course for its second major championship as a par 70 in Round 1 and a par 71 in Round 2, the 15th hole playing as a par 3 the first day and a par 4 the second.
Right on Wright’s heels was Arizona State’s Brandon Cloete, a freshman from South Africa who carded a 72 that left him one-over. Another shot back at 143 was Jino Sohn (71), a freshman from Chandler’s Hamilton High School, and AGA mainstay Michael Wog (74) of Scottsdale.
Four players were tied at 144, including Mesa’s Kolton Lapa, a senior at Red Mountain High who had the best score of the day, a 68. Also at that number were Phoenix’s Aaron Moreno (72), Tucson’s Derek Laporte (75) and another ASU freshman, Cameron Palmer (73).
The biggest casualty of Round 2 was defending champ Peter Koo, who faded with a 78 that left him seven shots behind Wright. Last year Koo, now a sophomore at Hamilton High School, became the youngest winner of an AGA major at age 15.
Overall the scores were high, but Wright said that was because the greens were firm and the pin placements were punishing “if you get on the wrong side of the cup.’’
“It’s hard to be aggressive with birdie putts,’’ said Wright, who made four birdies, including three in a row beginning at his 13th hole, to offset three bogeys.
Wright, who has signed a national letter of intent to play golf for LSU in the fall, said he is inspired to win this tournament and “stop that streak’’ held by Hamilton High, as five Huskies in a row have won this tournament, including Andrew Yun (2007, 2009) and Chan Kim (2008, 2010).
“I’m going to be playing hard,’’ Wright said of the weekend. The 36-hole cut came at 12-over 153 with 65 players advancing. The 72-hole chase concludes on Sunday.
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