Sara Riso of Hamburg and Ben Reichert of East Amherst currently lead their respective divisions of the inaugural AJGA New Era Junior Championship at River Oaks Golf Club on Grand Island. Riso’s round ignited on the par-three 8th hole, where the high school senior-to-be dunked an 8-iron in the hole for her first career ace. Birdies on three other holes helped to offset four bogies and give Riso a first-round lead of three strokes over Katie Kim of Illinois. One stroke farther back is Maren Cipolla of Lewiston. Chelsea Dantonio of Lancaster is in at 74.
The short irons proved to be a good part of the story for Ms. Riso, who patiently endured a post-round, interview-by-twitter with this reporter. A gap wedge into hole seven and a seven-iron shot to the eleventh left her close enough to jar birdie putts. As for the third hole, her other birdie, a hybrid second shot found the putting surface, from where she two-putted for birdie. Katie Kim had an eagle of her own, also on number three. Her lone birdie, on the par-five 12th hole, was offset by par-four difficulties. Ms. Kim bogeyed five of them on the day.
In Ben Reichert’s case, a hole-three eagle started his pursuit of a three-under 69. As with Riso, Mr. Reichert hit a hybrid (21 degree hybrid) onto the green and two putted A 54-degree wedge into the par-five twelfth and a seven-iron into the difficult closing hole both resulted in birdies and offset a lone bogey on the demanding, par-four 13th hole. After his round, Ben Reichert had this to say: “I know the course well and I hit the ball well today. I may have left a few putts out there, but I won’t complain after 69. I made a lot of pars. The greens were nice, rolling at an appropriate speed.” When asked if it was helpful to have a home game, Reichert agreed, confirming that “We’ve never had this big a tournament besides the Junior Masters this close to home.”
Tied with Reichert at 69 is Michael VanDerLaan of Connecticut. VanDerLaan scorched the course with six birdies and showed the ability to bounce back after a tough hole. After making 4 on the par-five third hole, VanDerLaan found trouble and bogey on each of the next two holes. Undaunted, he made three on the par-four sixth to right the ship. On the back nine, VanDerLaan made two early birdies, then stumbled with a bogey on the par-three 14th. What else to expect but a bounce-back birdie, and that’s precisely what happened as the young man made three on the fifteenth hole. One stroke behind the co-leaders is Justin Chae of New Jersey, at minus-two. One other golfer, Zachary Iannone of Connecticut, reached red figures on the day at minus-one.
Round two begins at 7 am on Wednesday, with the girls division teeing off in the first eight slots. The boys get started at 8:10 and run until 12:10. For the entire, second-round tee sheet, click away now.