Clayton Forren (courtesy VSGA)
HAYMARKET, Va. (June 20, 2012) -- Clayton Forren, 16, of Rustburg shot a stroke-play qualifying best 5-under-par 67 to earn medalist honors and the top seed for match play, which begins on Thursday at the 22nd Virginia State Golf Association Junior Match Play Championship at the 6,805-yard, par 72 Hermitage Country Club Manakin Course.
A rising senior at Rustburg High School, Forren concluded qualifying at 4-under 140. Defending champion Adam Ball, 18, of Richmond, shot a second day 73 and is the second low qualifier for match play (2-under 142). Fellow Richmond resident and Hermitage member Mark Lawrence Jr., 15, had 71 (1-under 143) to complete the contingent in red numbers in qualifying. Seventeen-year-olds Alex Lloyd of Virginia Beach (even-par 72) and Korey Watts of Buchanan (2-over 74) completed the top five low qualifiers for match play (1-over 145).
The first round and quarterfinal rounds of match play for the 16-player field is set for Thursday, with the semifinal and scheduled 18-hole final scheduled for Friday.
On a searing afternoon in central Virginia humidity-wise, it was Forren’s day to shine. Making his first appearance in the championship, he logged seven birdies against two bogeys on the second day. The Lynchburg area golfer (pictured left) used his length to birdie three of the four par 5s, including Nos. 2 and 5 on the outward half. He also drained birdie putts of 15 feet at the par-4 third and 12 feet at the par-4 ninth to turn in four under par for the day.
On the inward nine, Forren escaped trouble at the par-4 13th, recovering to sink a 25-footer for birdie and he knocked in an uphill 7-footer one hole later. He made his last birdie of the day at the par-5 17th, two-putting for birdie.
Forren started playing a more active junior schedule a year ago and is competing in only his second VSGA junior championship. Leading up to last summer’s VSGA Junior Stroke Play Championship, he was the low qualifier at his home club, London Downs Golf Club in Forest before competing in the event at Cedar Point Country Club in Suffolk. In the fall of 2011, he qualified for the Virginia High School League Group AA Championship as an individual.
Given the uncertainties inherent in the format, he enters the match play portion of the championship knowing that a new tournament, of sorts, starts on Thursday.
“I thought of this week as two separate tournaments. I wanted to win the stroke play portion and now it’s one player against another,” Forren said. “I feel like I’m playing well and I love the match play format. I’m just excited to play – there’s nothing to lose now. You just have to go out, try to play your best golf and birdie every hole.”
Ball is trying to become the first player to repeat since Mikey Moyers of Stanardsville took home the third of three consecutive titles in 2009. It’s a safe bet he’s comfortable in the match-play setting; in addition to claiming last year’s Junior Match Play, he won four matches in reaching the semifinals of last summer’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship conducted at Gold Mountain Golf Club’s Olympic Course in Bremerton, Wash.
Ball admits he’ll need to improve upon his performance on the greens to record another quintuplet of victories – and retain the Clyde L. Luther Trophy awarded to the event champion – this week.
“I’m hoping I can defend,” said Ball, the 2010 and 2011 VSGA Junior Boy of the Year, “but I just have to putt better [Thursday] because I hit the ball really well again [Wednesday]. Hopefully I can work something out.”
At the conclusion of stroke play qualifying, five competitors at 6-over 150 vied for the final spot in the match play field with Trevor Caccetta, 17, of Williamsburg advancing to the match play portion of the championship where he’ll face the medalist, Forren.
View results for Virginia Junior Match Play Golf Championship