STRATHAM. N.H. (July 16, 2012) -- Max McGreevy, 17, of Oklahoma City, Okla., fired a 4-under-par 68 to lead after the first round of stroke-play qualifying Monday at the U.S. Junior Amateur at the 7,175-yard, par-72 Golf Club of New England.
The 2010 champion, Jim Liu, 16, of Smithtown, N.Y., 2011 semifinalist Nicolas Echavarria, 17, of Colombia, Joshua Lee, 17, of Orange Park, Fla., and Andrew Bonner, 17, of Ripon, Calif., were two strokes back with rounds of 70.
Runner-up in the 2011 Junior Amateur, Chelso Barrett, of Keene, N.H., carded a 6-over 78, while U.S. Open competitor Beau Hossler posted a round of 77.
Liu and Echavarria are experienced Junior Amateur competitors. Bonner reached match play in 2011 but McGreevy and Lee are playing in their first USGA championship. McGreevy’s biggest title to date has been winning his Oklahoma State High School championship.
“I’ve never been east and I’ve never played in a USGA championship, so I didn’t know what to expect,” McGreevy said. “I haven’t played in a ton of big tournaments, so I didn’t have any goals, except to make match play.”
McGreevy wielded a hot putter and hit his approach shots close to the hole. Teeing off on the second nine, McGreevy birdied the 12th and 16th holes on putts of under 10 feet.
On the first nine, he reeled off four birdies in five holes. At the third, he hit a sand wedge to within 8 feet for birdie. He made a 25-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole and birdied from 5 feet on the sixth and 7 feet on the seventh hole. A bogey on the fifth and another from a bunker on the 18th were his only miscues.
“I knew I had to be calm and stay in the moment,” said McGreevy, an incoming high school junior. “Since this is my first USGA championship experience, I just want to enjoy it.”
In 2010, at 14, Liu became the youngest Junior Amateur champion in history, surpassing the record of Tiger Woods, who was 15 when he won the first of his three titles.
Liu’s round of 70 could have been better. He missed three birdie putts of less than 10 feet.
“It was a decent round,” Liu said. “I put myself in a lot of good spots. It could have been a lot lower, but I was happy with the result.”
Echavarria came close to matching McGreevy’s 68. He had six birdies until a double-bogey 6 on the final hole, wiped out two of them. Lee, an incoming high school junior, was more consistent with four birdies against two bogeys.
Bonner’s round was one thrill after another. After a bogey at the first hole and a double-bogey at the fourth, he fired four straight 3s, two of them birdies, to end his outward nine. On the second nine, he birdied two of the last four holes to finish with 70.
After Tuesday’s second stroke-play round, the low 64 scorers will advance to match play. Matches will be played through Saturday when the Junior Amateur Championship concludes with a scheduled 36-hole final.
The U.S. Junior Amateur, for golfers age 17 and under, is one of 13 championships conducted by the United States Golf Association. Ten are strictly for amateurs.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. Email her at email@example.com.
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