NAPERVILLE, Ill. (June 22, 2022) – Jackson Byrd made it through cut day at the 104th Western Junior Championship with the help of someone who has made 270 cuts on the PGA TOUR.
With his father, five-time PGA TOUR winner Jonathan Byrd, as his caddie, Jackson Byrd shot a 2-under 70 on Wednesday to grab a share of the second-round lead at Naperville Country Club. On a day when the field was trimmed from 156 to the low 44 and ties, the 15-year-old from Saint Simons Island, Georgia, reached 7-under to pull even with first-round co-leader Eduardo Derbez Torres.
“He’s doing good,” Jackson Byrd said of his caddie. “He’s helping me around the greens and slowing me down and working on the process more. It helped me out today a lot, because I didn’t hit it very good.”
He was still able to make four birdies, taking the lead with a birdie on the difficult par-3 17th after he hit a 6-iron from 230 yards to 23 feet. Jackson Byrd said he liked his position heading into the final 36 holes of stroke play Thursday.
“I’ve kind of gotten off to rough starts in tournaments and kind of fought back,” he said. “My week’s coming up.”
Derbez Torres, of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, followed up his first-round 66 with a 1-under 71. He started on the back nine and was 3-over through his first 14 holes before making an eagle on the 336-yard, par-4 sixth. He added finishing birdies on eight and nine to reclaim a share of the lead.
Jackson Byrd and Derbez Torres are one shot clear of a large group of players at 6-under, including Gaven Lane, of Argyle, Texas; Carter Loflin, of Duluth, Georgia; Phillip Dunham, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida; and Ryan Voois, of Ladera Ranch, California.
Dunham, who shared the lead with Derbez Torres on Tuesday, shot an even-par 72 on Wednesday. He said the key to succeeding at Naperville Country Club was hitting greens in regulation.
“Miss the green and it’s a little bit harder to get up and down,” he said. “I hit 17 greens yesterday. I don’t know how many I hit today – maybe 13 or 12 – and that reflects in the score.”
Dunham stayed near the lead with a nifty par save on the par-4 18th. Reaching a drive he thought was perfect only to find it squarely behind a tree, he also leaned on his caddie, who said, “nothing you can do about it.” Dunham chipped out sideways and got up and down from 41 yards.
“Nothing you can do about it, so might as well work with it and do the best you can from there,” he said.
Erik Plenge, of Peru, is alone in seventh place at 5-under. He had an eagle and five birdies on his way to shooting 4-under 68 on Wednesday. Garrett Endicott, of San Antonio, Texas, is in eighth after rounds of 67 and 73.
While the scoring was a little higher on Wednesday, there were plenty of fireworks. John Wild, of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, made a hole in one on the 10th, a 228-yard par 3. Zach Kingsland, of San Antonio, Texas, made an albatross on the 532-yard, par-5 fifth.
The cut came at 1-over, with 48 players advancing to the final 36 holes of stroke play on Thursday.
The winner this week 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 Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park, Illinois, in early August.
Attendance and parking at the Western Junior are free. For more information, visit www.thewesternjunior.com.
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