RUMFORD, Rhode Island -- Mariel Galdiano of Pearl City, Hawaii, is the 18-hole Girls’ Division leader, while Davis Shore of Knoxville, Tennessee, has the Boys’ Division lead at the 41st Junior PGA Championship presented by Under Armour and Genesis Networks, which is being contested this week at Wannamoisett Country Club.
Wannamoisett’s par-71 layout (for the Girls’ Division) offered little resistance for Galdiano, whose 64 was bogey-free and included seven birdies. It could have been lower if not for an eagle bid on No. 9 that came to rest on the lip. Regardless, Galdiano’s 64 matched the lowest Girls’ Division round in Championship history.
Galdiano leads Virginia Green (Point Clear, Alabama) and Lucy Li (Redwood Shores, California) by two shots. Three others – Gina Kim (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), Youngin Chun (Gainesville, Florida) and Kyra Cox (South Salem, New York – are three strokes behind Galdiano.
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Defending Champion Elizabeth Wang of San Marino, California, posted an even-par 71.
Despite the ease relative ease of her round today, Galdiano is being challenged by not only an elite field of 78 junior girls, but the specter of last year’s Junior PGA Championship, which she led by three strokes with just six holes remaining. Her loss in a playoff to Wang rendered her fourth career top-15 finish in this Championship.
“Last year was so close, but we both played well,” said Galdiano, when asked about last year’s runner-up finish at Miramont Country Club in Bryan, Texas. “I want to do the same this year, just play well. Today’s round was helpful, but there is a long way to go.”
Galdiano’s fifth Junior PGA Championship will be her last, as she will enroll for her freshman year at UCLA next month. This Championship will put a bow on Galdiano’s stellar junior career, which has included an appearance in the Curtis Cup, a trio of berths in the U.S. Women’s Open, three Hawaii high school state championships and a Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship in 2015.
“This Championship and today’s results are a really nice way to finish,” said Galdiano. “It’s been a tough year, I have not closed well.”
The 72-hole Championship will feature a 54-hole cut to the low 30 boys and 30 girls, including ties.
Davis Shore of Knoxville, Tennessee posted a three-under 66 and leads the Boys’ Division by a single shot over Cole Hammer of Houston. The Boys’ Division is playing Donald Ross’ Wannamoisett as a par-69.
Hammer, with a tap-in birdie on No. 11, emerged from a pack of seven that were tied for the lead at 1-under. His grasp on the leaderboard’s top spot was short lived, as Shore posted birdies on 13 and 16 to wrestle the first-round lead.
Walker Lee of Houston; Frankie Capan of North Oaks, Minnesota; and Norman Xiong of Canyon Lake, California are tied for third after recording one-under rounds of 68. They trail Shore by two.
Shore is back for a second crack at Wannamoisett. Earlier this summer, in June, he played in the annual Northeast Amateur, which Wannamoisett has hosted every year since 1962. He played well, but one poor round put him above the cut line. Shore knew his second bite at the apple was soon to come.
“I’ve been excited to get back here because I needed to get my revenge on this golf course,” chuckled Shore. “I feel like I am playing much better now than I was at that point in the summer. I just was not hitting it my best back then. I feel like I am in control of my ball, and I am rolling it a lot better too.”
Shore believes his extra exposure to Wannamoisett can pay dividends, “I think my experience here back in June was huge and gives me an advantage this week. I know how the golf course plays, although it was not this windy at the Northeast Amateur back in June.”
Hammer, like Galdiano, is at Wannamoisett with atonement on his mind, as his bogey on the 72nd hole last year at Miramont left him without a spot in the playoff and nursing a tie for third.
“I definitely think about last year,” said Hammer. “I try not to let it affect my game, but it gives me motivation with every shot I hit. I learned a good lesson that day, namely that every shot really counts.”
Zack Gordon of Gaffney, South Carolina, used an ace on the 210-yard 12th hole to change the momentum of his round. After making the turn at 2-over-par, Gordon birdied 10, parred 11 and then used a 4-iron on 12 to quickly jump into a tie for third place. He ultimately finished in a tie for sixth with an even-par 69.
“I saw the people cheer,” said Gordon of his first career hole-in-one, which he did not see go in the hole because of the up-hill nature of the hole. “I really did not know what to do,” he confessed.
The second-ranked junior boy, Noah Goodwin of Corinth, Texas, withdrew from the Championship with a back issue. He was only able to complete nine holes before departing.
In addition to claiming the Patty Berg Trophy in the Girls’ Division and the Jack Nicklaus Trophy the boys’ side, most of the field at the Junior PGA Championship is vying for a spot in the upcoming Junior Ryder Cup, which will be played September 26 and 27 at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minnesota in conjunction with the Ryder Cup.
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