First round leader Jamie Cheatham
(Cal Athletics Photo)
RANCHO MIRAGE, CA (July 6, 2017) - A crowded leaderboard was the story of the day during the first round of action at the 118th Southern California Amateur Championship, as seven different men held the top spot on the scoreboard at one point or another during the day. As the dust settled around 1:45 p.m. at Mission Hills CC on Thursday, it was Jamie Cheatham who stood alone at the top.
Cheatham, a 20-year-old Rancho Santa Fe native who currently plays golf for the University of California, Berkeley, turned in an opening-round 68, recording five birdies and one lone bogey. Starting his day on Tee 10, Cheatham played his opening nine in 2-under par, including a birdie on the very difficult 437-yard par 4 16th hole, which saw only two birdies and 21 bogeys from the 84 competitors on the day. The rising Cal sophomore is fresh off a redshirt season.
Despite the turmoil at the top of the leaderboard, the man who spent the most time there Thursday was 17-year-old Donald Kay of San Diego, who blazed the course for 5-under through 17 holes without a blemish on his scoreboard. That changed on the challenging 18th hole, where Kay took his first misstep of the day, double-bogeying his final hole to fall one back of the Round 1 leader.
"I had an advantage in that I know this course pretty well from playing it during the AJGA's annual event here," said Kay. "My ball striking was strong today, and it gave me a lot of opportunities for birdies."
Kay's strongest point of the day was mid-way through the front nine, when he birdied three straight holes to catapult up the leaderboard. Playing with a slight disadvantage by having the latest tee time of the morning, the heat didn't seem to effect Kay, who played his last few holes during the hottest temperatures of the round.
"Having a cart really helped," said Kay. "Usually I'd be walking."
Kay joins five other men at T2 on the leaderboard, including SCGA Public Links Champion Nick Geyer recent USC graduate Danny Ochoa, who also find themselves one shot off the lead after a Day 1 4-under par 69. Four other competitors are just one stroke back of that.
In an event that typically hosts a 36-hole opening round, the format was changed this year to address the expected high temperatures. All 84 players will be back Friday for another 18-hole round, which begins at 7:30 a.m. A number of notables are still within striking distance, including the two past champions in the field, 2004 Champion Tim Hogarth and three-time winner Scott McGihon, who both opened with even par rounds.
ABOUT THE SCGA Amateur
This is the longest standing championship
by the SCGA. Started in 1900, this event
best amateur player of the Association. Since
inaugural event, the SCGA Amateur has
illustrious history of great champions, including
Woods and Al Geiberger to more recent stars
including Beau Hossler and Patrick Cantlay. The
event is open to members with a Handicap
5.4 and below. Competitors undergo 18 holes
qualifying play in order to reach the final field
players. In the Championship, players compete
72 holes of stroke play with the top 42 and ties
advancing after the first 36 holes. The
site is traditionally held at the home club of the
current SCGA President.
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