MIDLOTHIAN, Ill. (June 20, 2023) – After making birdie on five of his first seven holes in the first round of the 105th Western Junior Championship on Tuesday, Cooper Claycomb couldn’t keep the thought of the Midlothian Country Club course record from creeping into his mind.
The Bowling Green, Kentucky, native was quickly reminded that golf can humble you fast. Sitting at 4-under after starting on the 10th hole, the 18-year-old made double bogey on 17 and bogey on 18 to erase his hot start.
“Standing on the first tee I just told my dad I was going to smash this ball,” Claycomb said. “I piped my driver down the fairway and got all the anger out.”
The energy was back.
Claycomb, a University of Louisville commit, went on to make four birdies on the second nine to finish with a 5-under 65, one shot short of Leonard Thompson’s course record of 64, set during the 1973 Western Open at Midlothian.
“It’s a bummer, but I can’t complain when I’m under par and hitting my driver the best I have in a while,” Claycomb said.
Chase Kyes, of Birmingham, Alabama, trails Claycomb by one stroke after posting a 4-under 66. The 17-year-old had the low score of the afternoon wave. He started on 10 and got into red figures quickly with an eagle on the 410-yard, par-4 11th.
“When you start out with a hole-out it’s great for getting the momentum going,” Kyes said. “I had 60 yards left after my drive, so I hit it with some check and it just one-hopped in.”
Kyes said that wasn’t even the best shot he hit.
After making birdies on 13 and 15 to get to 4-under, he played even par over the next 11 holes before running into trouble on the ninth, his final hole of the day.
“I found the rough behind the green and was short-sided,” Kyes said. A “66 is a lot better than 67, so I told my caddie we were going to get up-and-down no matter what. He gave me a great read and I made a clutch slider to get in at 66.”
Rounding out the top three was 18-year-old Hans Risvaer, a Miami, Florida, native who shot a 3-under 67. The Central Florida commit played steady in the afternoon wave, recording five birdies and two bogeys.
“I like how I played today even though my driver can be a little wild,” Risvaer said. “It was tough in the afternoon, so I’m looking forward to getting out in the morning tomorrow.”
With the wind picking up in the late morning into the afternoon, only eight players were able to break par on the 6,911-yard layout.
Sitting at 2-under and tied for fourth are Will Baker, of Statham, Georgia; Supapon Amornchaichan, of Bangkok, Thailand; Mitchell Maier, of Richmond, Texas; and Ethan Whitaker, of Powell, Tennessee. Nolan Haynes, of Barberton, Ohio; Ryan Shellberg, of Prosper, Texas; and Aarav Shah, of Melbourne, Australia, each shot 1-under 69 and are tied for eighth place.
Six players are tied for 11th at even par.
Jack Turner of Orlando, Florida, had the shot of the day, recording a hole-in-one on the 160-yard, par-3 12th. He finished at 3-over par.
After Wednesday’s 18 holes, the field will be cut to the low 44 and ties. The final 36 holes will be played Thursday. The winner 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 North Shore Country Club Glenview, Illinois, in early August.
Attendance and parking at the Western Junior are free.
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