By MATT HARNESS
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (June 23, 2021) – When he heard Max Lyons shot 3-under 67 in relentless, gusting wind Wednesday at Onwentsia Club, a player shrugged and laughed.
“How did he do that?” the player wondered.
Simply put, the 18-year-old Lyons, of Peoria, Arizona, stuck to his game plan and didn’t get greedy. After bogeying his first hole — the par-5 10th — Lyons minimized his mistakes and capitalized on his opportunities. He carded two birdies on his first nine and two more on the second side to shoot to the top of the leaderboard during the second round of the 103rd Western Junior Championship.
Lyons heads into Thursday’s final 36 holes in first place at 3 under in his inaugural appearance at the tournament.
A blustery wind that blew all day reached nearly 30 miles per hour at times, contributing to only seven players shooting in the 60s on the 6,736-yard, par-70 layout. In the first round Tuesday, 15 players broke par.
“It was a good day,” said Lyons, who will be a freshman on the Marquette men’s golf team in the fall. “I started with that bogey, but I just put my head down and played it one shot at a time. We knew where to miss and how to play the percentages. Sometimes you have to take your medicine.”
Four players head into the final 36 holes under par. Eric Lee, of Fullerton, California, is solo second at 2 under. Ethan Fang, of Plano, Texas, and Yuze Zhang, of Windemere, Florida, are tied for third at 1 under. Six players are at even par, including first-round leader Garrett Endicott, of San Antonio, Texas, who shot 75 in the tough conditions.
The best round Wednesday belonged to Javier Delgadillo, of El Paso, Texas. His bogey-free 66 featured two birdies and an eagle. He moved to 3 over after an opening-round 77, getting safely inside the cut line. Ethan Gao, of Johns Creek, Georgia, also bounced back in the second round, going from 75 to 68 to finish at 3 over.
The cut came at 7 over, and 51 players advanced to the last day of the tournament.
Nate Stevens, of Northfield, Minnesota, had a chance to finish in red numbers for the tournament. After posting 1-over 71 on Tuesday, he got to 2 under for the day on Wednesday with a birdie on No. 16 — his seventh hole of the day — and stayed there with 10 consecutive pars until he three-putted No. 9 for bogey to shoot 69 and end up even par for the tournament.
“It was a kind of a grind,” said the 17-year-old Stevens, a rising senior and University of Notre Dame commit. “In the moment, I didn’t feel I was playing that great, but now that I look back I’m happy. It could have been a lot worse.”
Being from Minnesota, Stevens is no stranger to inclement weather. He’s played in wind, rain and even snow.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Before I started high school, I never wanted to play in that stuff, but it’s grown on me a lot. I like to play in tough conditions.”
Defending champion Piercen Hunt, of Hartland, Wisconsin, who won in 2019 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois, missed the cut after rounds of 73-78.
Tomorrow’s first-time 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 Glen View Club in Golf, Illinois, to be held July 26-31.
Attendance and parking for the Western Junior are free.
For the full leaderboard, click here.
For tee times, click here.