MANAKIN-SABOT (June 19, 2012) –– Defending champion Adam Ball, 18, of Richmond shot 3-under-par 69 to lead the first day of stroke-play qualifying at the 22nd Virginia State Golf Association Junior Match Play Championship being conducted at the 6,805-yard, par 72 Hermitage Country Club Manakin Course.
Ball, a rising senior at central Virginia’s St. Christopher’s School, was one of four competitors to return a round of par or better on day one of qualifying. The others were Mason Stutler, 18 of Fredericksburg (2-under 70), Korey Watts, 17, of Buchanan (1-under 71) and Hermitage member Mark Lawrence Jr., 15, of Richmond (even-par 72), the reigning Richmond Times-Dispatch All-Metro player of the year.
In posting the low round, Ball played the four par 5s in four under par. He got off to a strong start, drilling a 3-wood from 250 yards to 10 feet to set up an eagle-3 at the par-5 second before making birdie at the par-5 fifth hole to turn in three under. He added another birdie at the par-5 11th, converting a 6-footer to complete an up and down from the greenside bunker. Despite a bogey at No. 12, Ball made par on the last six holes of the day.
Despite putting a new driver in the bag after his usual driver malfunctioned on Monday, he played an efficient round, hitting 16 of 18 greens in regulation.
“It was definitely solid – starting off with a 69 was nice and hopefully, I can keep it going from there,” Ball said. “I’m swinging well and playing pretty solidly, so I’m going to take it one shot at a time and do the best I can. I was happy with the way I hit the ball well today and my swing felt good.”
Ball, the low qualifier for match play en route to winning the title last year, is trying to become the event’s first repeat champion since 2009 when Mikey Moyers of Stanardsville won his third of three consecutive titles in the event. Last year, Ball became the first top seed to go on to take home the title since Blackstone’s Cameron Yancey accomplished the feat in 1996.
The 2010 and 2011 VSGA Junior Boy of the Year, Ball reached the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and his strong play has continued this season, claiming individual medalist honors at the Virginia Preparatory League Championship in mid-May.
Stutler birdied the par-4 18th to shoot two under, while Watts had four birdies to offset three bogeys. Lawrence got off to a strong start and birdied the par-3 ninth hole to shoot two under on the outward half, but didn’t make another birdie the rest of the way, making a pair of bogeys on the inward nine.
Following the first day of qualifying, the field was reduced to the low 75 competitors and ties with 76 players at 9-over-par 81 advancing to Tuesday’s second round.
After Wednesday’s second round of stroke play qualifying, the top 16 players will advance to the opening round of match play on Thursday, June 21. The quarterfinals will also take place on Thursday followed by the semifinals and scheduled 18-hole championship final on Friday, June 22.
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