Williams and Jutanugarn tie course records at Junior PGA Championship

Ariya Jutanugarn at the Junior PGA Championship
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Defending girls' division champion Ariya Jutanugarn matched the course record she set last year by making birdies on her final three holes en route to a 66.
By
Randy Stutzman
The PGA of America

Series: PGA Feature

FORT WAYNE, Ind. --  J.B. Williams of Danville, Ky., and Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand both tied Sycamore Hills Golf Club competitive course records and grabbed opening-round leads Tuesday at the 37th Junior PGA Championship presented by Under Armour and Heritage Food Service Group.

Williams owns a two-stroke lead in the Boys' Division after an opening-round 7-under-par 65. Jutanugarn, the defending champion in the Girls' Division, grabbed a one-stroke lead after a 66.

2012 JUNIOR PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

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The 72-hole Championship, being staged for the third consecutive year at Sycamore Hills, features a 54-hole cut to the low 30 boys and 30 girls, including ties, following the third round of play on Thursday.

Williams, who qualified for the Junior PGA Championship by winning the 2012 Kentucky Junior PGA Championship, made eight birdies to lead Jim Liu of Smithtown, N.Y., and Cameron Champ of Sacramento, Calif., who both opened with a 67.

"It was a career day today," said Williams, 17. "I got hot on the front nine and kept it going on the back."

Williams' only error came at the par-4 10th hole.

"I made a small mistake and bogeyed 10, which slowed me down a bit," said Williams, 17. "But I got back on track with a birdie at 13. It felt good to bounce back."

Early-morning thunderstorms in the Fort Wayne area caused a two-hour delay, which softened the golf course and allowed Williams to be more aggressive.

"The rain delay this morning was a big factor," said Williams. "The greens were firm during the practice round, but today most of the guys were able to shoot at the pins and there were lots of low scores."

Liu, who is the only member of the 2012 Junior PGA Championship to have competed on the winning 2010 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team, opened with four birdies on his front nine.

"I got off to a really hot start," said Liu, who won the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur. "The back was harder, but I was able to hold it together and close with birdies on 17 and 18."

Beau Hossler of Mission Viejo, Calif., opened with a 68, and is tied with Tyler McDaniel of Manchester, Ky., two strokes off the pace.

Hossler has competed in the last two U.S. Opens, finishing in a tie for 29th in June at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif.

"I was pretty flawless today, minus the bogey at 18," said Hossler, 17. "If I can keep the ball in the fairway, I will be right there at the end of the week."

In the Girls' Division, Jutanugarn matched the course record she set last year by making birdies on her final three holes to lead Samantha Wagner of Windermere, Fla., who opened with a 67.

Megan Khang of Rockland, Mass., is alone in third after an opening-round 68.

"On the front nine I did not play so well," said Jutanugarn. "My driver was bad at the start but I wanted to turn it around."

Things started to turn when she birdied par-4 13th that preceded her strong finish.

"I got lucky on 16 when I chipped in and 17 is my favorite hole and I know I can make birdie there," said Jutanugarn, who won title in 2011 by 10 strokes. "Then I hit it to one foot on 18 and that made me feel so good."

Wagner, 15, used five birdies to offset a single bogey and put herself in contention in just her second appearance in the Junior PGA Championship.

"I was really happy with how I played today," said Wagner, who missed the cut in 2011. "I was disappointed with how I played last year, but I love this course and knew I could play better."

This year's field includes past winners of the Championship, PGA Junior Series event champions, PGA Section winners, many of Polo Golf and Golfweek's top-ranked players, and selected national junior tournament winners.

Golf Channel will present a one-hour highlight show of the 37th Junior PGA Championship, with the first airing on Mon., Sept. 17

Begun in 1976, the Junior PGA Championship has traditionally produced unforgettable golf performances and brings together the best junior golfers from around the country to compete for the Jack Nicklaus Trophy in the Boys' Division and the Patty Berg Trophy in the Girls' Division.