By Bill Huffman
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (April 14, 2012) -- Cold temperatures coupled with gusty winds on Saturday created a major upheaval in the leader board at the Arizona State Stroke Play Championship. When the day was done, the new guys on top going into today’s final round at the TPC Champions Course were C.J. Kim of Chandler and Mesa’s Kolton Lapa.
Kim, a former standout at Hamilton High School who played on four state championship teams and twice won individual honors, managed a one-under-par 69, which equaled the day’s best score. Lapa, a senior at Red Mountain High who will play golf for Nebraska in the fall, held on for a 73. Both players were at 6-over 217. One shot back were Brett Wilson, a teammate of Lapa’s at Red Mountain who also put up a 69, and Arizona State freshman Cameron Palmer with a 74. Another shot back was former Cardinals quarterback Tim Rattay, who moved into fifth place all alone after a 74.
Kim, who has a chance to extend the Hamilton High School dynasty in this tournament to a mind-boggling six straight years, might be the favorite at this point. He has lots of experience, having played on the same teams with former Huskies and Stroke Play champions Andrew Yun (2007, 2009) and Chan Kim (200, 2010). The other former Hamilton High standout to win this event is the defending champ, Peter Koo.
“I finished third in this tournament the last time Andrew won (2009),’’ said Kim, a 21-year-old who played golf for the University of Denver the past two years but plans to turn pro in the fall.
“Today I played really great considering (the conditions), with four birdies on my front nine (to offset three bogeys), which helped a lot. So I’d like to win it and extend Hamilton’s legacy. Hopefully, the weather will be a little better (Sunday).’’ Zachary Wright, the third-round leader from Scottsdale’s Pinnacle High, and Brandon Cloete, another ASU freshman who had been in second place, were blown away with 81s. They trail the co-leaders by five and six shots, respectively.
“It was awful,’’ said the Wright, shaking his head in disbelief. “I made triple (bogey) on the first hole, was nine over on the front nine for a 44, and that was basically the round even though I came back with a 37 (on the back nine).’’
But five shots certainly are not insurmountable on this tight and testy golf course, and there are others besides Cloete who are by no means out of the title chase. That includes Chandler’s Lee Decof, who had one of those 69s that moved him to four shots back of the co-leaders, and Scottsdale’s Michael Wog, the AGA mainstay who also was four back despite a 78. Even the defender, Koo, has an outside chance after a 76 left him seven strokes off the pace.
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