By MATT HARNESS
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (June 19, 2019) – A day after declaring that bogeys are unavoidable at Rich Harvest Farms, Piercen Hunt of Hartland, Wisconsin, didn’t make a single one on his way to a 5-under 67 and the 36-hole lead at the 102nd Western Junior.
A first-round co-leader, Hunt’s bogey-free Wednesday round included five birdies, and he’s five strokes clear of three players at 8 under heading into Thursday’s final 36 holes.
“I drove it really well and played conservatively into greens to minimize mistakes,” said Hunt, who missed the cut last year at Evanston Golf Club in Skokie, Illinois. “I made it really easy on myself.”
Starting his round with six consecutive pars, Hunt converted his first birdie at the par-3 16th, his seventh hole, before making three in a row on Nos. 1-3. Another big moment came on the par-4 fourth when he lipped out a birdie putt from 70 feet and tapped in for par.
“That would have been a big bonus,” Hunt said. “I was rarely out of position. If I was, I did a good job of getting up and down.”
Simms Abney, of Madison, Mississippi; Yuki Moriyama, of Yokohama-shi Kanagawa, Japan; and Sudarshan Yellamaraju, of Ontario, Canada, all are tied for second at 3 under. Moriyama shot 69 to climb into contention, while Yellamaraju didn’t make a move with an even-par 72 after sharing the first-round lead.
“Nothing was really good, but it could have been much worse,” Yellamaraju said. “I’m alright with the position I’m in, but I need to reduce my mistakes.”
Eight players are under par after 36 holes and only 11 are at par or better. The cut came at 5 over, with 50 players advancing to Thursday. It's the highest total since 7 over at Riverside Golf Club in North Riverside, Illinois, in 2015.
A rising senior at Arrowhead High School and a University of Illinois commit, Hunt won’t change his game plan or approach for the last day after posting rounds of 69-67.
“I knew my game was in good form coming in, and it feels really good right now,” he said. “I’m sticking with what I have and see where it takes me.”
Yellamaraju is hopeful about his chances Thursday.
“Anybody who is behind [Hunt] has to play really good, but anything can happen out here,” he said.