Western Junior: Chase Kyes takes the lead heading into the final round
Chase Kyes (Western Golf Association Photo)
Chase Kyes (Western Golf Association Photo)

Chase Kyes, of Birmingham, Alabama, climbed 13 spots to the top of the leaderboard with a 6-under 64 in the second round of the 106th Western Junior on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old Alabama verbal commit bested his first-round 71 by seven strokes on the par 70 layout at Ruth Lake Country Club, taking a one-shot lead over Jake Albert, of Blacksburg, Virginia, going into the final 36 holes on Thursday.

"I putted really good today," Kyes said. "It felt like I was all over the place, but the putter really saved me and allowed me to score."

The marquee putt came on the par-3 14th, where Kyes had 35 feet to the hole and a pair of ridges creating a severe double-break on the bentgrass green. Trusting his read, Kyes rolled in the lengthy putt for one of his seven birdies on the day.

"It did exactly what I thought,” Kyes said. “Such a good feeling.”

Kyes' 64 was one stroke off the course record, shared by Illinois men's golf coach Mike Small, who was in attendance at Ruth Lake. Ieuan Jones, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, tied Small on Wednesday by posting a 7-under 63.

Kyes doesn't have plans to celebrate the low round too much.

"Just gonna pretend like none of this happened and go out and play golf because tomorrow's a completely new day, and a long one," Kyes said.

The cut came at 4-over par, with 51 players advancing to play the final 36 holes on Thursday to decide who will hoist the Milt Woodard Trophy. Third round tee times begin at 7 a.m., with the final round to follow in the afternoon.

Albert, 17, sits in solo second at 4-under after rounds of 67-69. With his mom caddying, Albert carded three birdies on Wednesday, including one on No. 14 that required a little help.

"She helped me read the putt on that one and it dropped," said Albert, an Auburn verbal commit. "She tries to keep me calm and yells at me when I'm not. It's nice to have her out there."

Sterling Hurd – a 17-year-old from Austin, Texas ­– sits in solo third place at 3-under after carding a second-round 66 that was five strokes better than his first-round 71.

"First off, the wind was blowing a lot less today," Hurd said. "But I putt really well today and hit the ball great. If you put me on the putting green, the putts were going in and everything was dropping."

With the 35 mph wind gusts of Tuesday subsiding, 34 players shot under par today as opposed to just five players getting into red figures the day before.

Five players sit in a tie for fourth place at 2-under: Parker Sands, of Edmond, Oklahoma; Davis Wotnosky, of Wake Forest, North Carolina; Brett Moore, of Hollywood, Florida; Talan Harrison, of Kannapolis, North Carolina; and Will Gordon, of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Among the five players tied for ninth at 1-under is 17-year-old Mykhailo Golod, of Kyiv, Ukraine.

Golod – a four-time Ukranian Junior champion – escaped the warzone back in his homeland of Ukraine two years ago and quickly became one of the top recruits in the Class of 2024, signing with North Carolina. 

In tying the Ruth Lake competitive course record, Jones bested his first-round total by 19 strokes. His two-day total of 5-over put him one stroke short of making the cut.

"Bogey-free today, birdie-free yesterday," Jones joked to a WGA official while tallying up his scorecard.

The winner this week will join Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk as a Western Junior champion. The top three finishers and ties receive exemptions into the Western Amateur at Moraine Country Club Dayton, Ohio, in early August.

Recap courtesy of Western Golf Association

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ABOUT THE Western Junior

72-hole stroke play event open to male amateur golfers who are at least 16 years old and not older than 19 by the end of the tournament. Entrants must have an official and verified handicap index not exceeding three strokes. Field maximum of 156.

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