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Six age-group champions from 2017 found themselves in a familiar position at the conclusion of the opening round of the 40th annual Larry Pittman Memorial/Wilson County Junior Golf Championship on Monday at Wilson Country Club.
Sarah Bunn, who was the overall girls medalist last year, maintained her supremacy at the Girls Ages 15-18 level while Lanie Jinks took charge of the Girls Ages 13-14 division in search of her fifth age-group title.
Ethan Boyette took dead aim at his sixth straight age-group crown by taking a nine-stroke lead in the Boys Ages 11-12 division.
Ryan Richardson, the Boys Ages 13-14 winner last year, moved to the top of the Ages 15-16 division while Nate O’Neal, the Boys Ages 11-12 victor in 2017, shared the Ages 13-14 lead with twin brother, Drew. Also sharing the lead in the Boys Ages 9-10 field was 2017 8-Under champion Joseph Butts, who is tied with tournament newcomer Samuel Allegood.
Meanwhile, Jake Herring, playing up in the Boys Ages 17-18, shook off the effects of a temporary bug to grab the lead. The 15-year-old rising sophomore at Fike High has four county age-group championships to his credit and narrowly missed winning the Ages 17-18 title and overall boys medalist distinction at the 39th Pittman Memorial last summer.
Camiryn Jackson, playing in her first Pittman Memorial, posted an impressive five-hole score of 24 to take a 13-stroke lead in the Girls 8-Under division. On the boys side, Bowman Smith, who finished last in the Boys 8-Under in 2017, took a one-stroke lead over Luke Allegood after Monday’s round.
Brooklyn Scott leads the Girls 9-10 against her only competitor, Katherine Joyner, who was unopposed in the division in 2017. Bree Council, the runner-up in Girls 11-12 last year, is the only competitor in the group this time.
The three-day tournament goes to Wedgewood Public Golf Course on Tuesday before concluding Wednesday at Willow Springs Country Club.
The weather mostly cooperated with brief showers dotting the morning round at WCC.
“I just got a little sprinkled on,” said Camiryn Jackson, who pointed out the greens were a little fast.
She was happy with her drives, which helped as she posted no higher than a six on her five holes.
Bowman Smith was also happy with his work off the tees.
“I hit a drive low and it went far,” he proudly noted.
When asked how long he’s been playing golf, the 6-year-old said confidently, “Maybe forever,” before his mother, Kesha, explained that “forever” meant two years.
Reminded that his lead was only a stroke over Luke Allegood and three strokes over the smallest golfer on the course, 4-year old Thomas Layton, Bowman was asked what he needed to do to keep playing good.
“Keep playing good,” he responded in Zen-like fashion.
Samuel Allegood wasn’t too excited about his five-hole round of 22 that tied him with Joseph Butts atop the Boys 9-10 division, assuring that he could have done better.
“Yeah, because I made a double bogey on No. 2,” he said.
Samuel was excited about playing in the 40th version of the tournament that his father, Claud Allegood, had claimed several age-group titles in the 1980s.
“It’s cool,” he said.
The youngster also tipped off that he got in some clandestine practice time on the WCC course, which backs up to the house where his grandmother has lived for more than 40 years.
“I hadn’t ever played out here,” said Samuel, who recently moved to Wilson with his family. “We went out here two nights ago. We snuck out here and played a few holes!”
R.J. Garris, whose caddy was his father, Marty, wasn’t overjoyed with his score of 32 that left him in fourth place behind Samuel Allegood, Joseph Butts and third-place Colby Kennedy (24).
“A little bad but I’ll take it. I’ll take the round,” R.J. said. “Tomorrow’s going to be another fresh day, so.
“I got a little down on myself sometimes. I need to work on that, but other than that, I’ll be OK.”
R.J. pointed out that he mostly played at Wedgewood so he should have an advantage Tuesday. As far as his caddy, R.J. was satisfied.
“Oh, he’s good. He did good,” he said.
The only players in the Girls Ages 9-10 division — Brooklyn Scott and Katherine Joyner — agreed that they had fun playing together even if they weren’t acquainted prior to Monday’s run.
Brooklyn, who shot a 30, liked the way she hit her drives while Katherine, who posted a 36, said “probably my wedges” were the best part of her game Monday.
When asked if she could give her playing partner any advice, Brooklyn replied, “To get down on the ground more when you’re doing your chipping. Sometimes when you’re chipping you need to go down in the ground more.”
Did Katherine have any advice for Brooklyn?
“Um, no, she’s just really a great player!” she said.
BOYS BATTLES SHAPING UP
While Jackson, Jinks, Bunn and Boyette hold commanding leads, there are some potentially good battles brewing in the other age groups. In addition to the Boys Ages 8-Under and 9-10 divisions, Ages 13-14 also has co-leaders with the latter having four players within seven strokes of the lead. The O’Neal twins are just two shots up on Noah Joyner with a 90 while Cody Williford lurks in fourth place with a 95.
Richardson holds a five-stroke advantage over Dante Gaetano in Ages 15-16 and Herring is seven shots better than Adam Dermer in Ages 17-18.
While Ethan Boyette set the pace in the Ages 9-10 field with a 39, second-place Brayden Joyner was OK with his round of 48.
“I feel like I could have done better but,” he said. “I cut some of my drives. I putted good and hit some good chip shots.”
Brayden was easier on himself than was Ethan, who was critical of his putting.
“I was shoving a lot of putts and I just could not lag putts, couldn’t get them as close as I wanted,” he said. “Short putts, I felt I was peaking on them.”
The younger brother of 2017 medalist Bryson Boyette, a former North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A champion and the Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year this past spring at Barton College, Ethan downplayed the notion that there was any pressure to play well as the last Boyette remaining in the Wilson County Junior Golf Championship.
“No pressure at all,” he said with a grin. “I’m just out here having fun, enjoying it. I hope everybody else is.”