Zeigler, Pano impress with first-round Dustin Johnson Jr lead
Gene Zeigler (Photo courtesy of DJ Junior)
Gene Zeigler (Photo courtesy of DJ Junior)

Gene Zeigler is a name that’s familiar around South Carolina golf circles. The Florence, S.C., native is already bound for the University of South Carolina golf roster (though not until 2021). With some of the nation’s top juniors in his home state for the Dustin Johnson World Junior at TPC Myrtle Beach, Zeigler set the pace.

Friday’s first round was overshadowed by a bit of rain, but after starting with a bogey at the par-4 first, Zeigler found his rhythm. He made five consecutive birdies from Nos. 6 to 10 which effectively set him apart from the rest of the field. A 5-under 67 set up a one-shot lead in the 54-hole event.

"I was just trying to play conservative and I had some short irons and the hole started looking bigger and bigger putting it," Zeigler said. "My first birdie was six inches from the hole and everything else was from within 15 feet."

The list of pursuers is impressive. Tyler Guo of Irvine, Calif., and Luke Clanton of Miami Lakes, Fla., are a shot behind Zeigler after an opening round of 66.

A three-man tie for fourth at 3-under 69 includes defending champion Michael Brennan of Leesburg, Va., and top-ranked junior Akshay Bhatia of Wake Forest, N.C. Austin Greaser, the No. 21-ranked player in the Golfweek Junior Rankings, is also on that number.

The Dustin Johnson Junior also includes a small but elite girls field. Defending champion Alexa Pano, coming off victories at the Dixie Women’s Amateur and the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Amateur in the past two months, set herself apart with a bogey-free 3-under 69. In fact, she was the only competitor in the 90-player field to log a round without any bogeys or doubles.

Pano, a Lake Worth, Fla., resident who was also runner-up at the U.S. Girls’ Junior last summer, leads Latanna Stone by one shot. Stone is also a Florida resident, but three years Pano’s senior. Now at the end of her junior career, Stone is looking for one last win before moving on to LSU in the fall.

Megan Propeck of Leawood, Kan., native, had perhaps the steadiest round of the day. Her even-par 72 included just one birdie and one bogey and left her third.

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ABOUT THE Dustin Johnson World Junior

Started in 2016 by the Dustin Johnson Foundation, the Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship is a 54- hole invitational event for Boys and Girls ages 13- 18. Those who do not meet the invitation criteria will have an opportunity to earn a spot via an 18-hole qualifier prior to the event.

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