PARK RIDGE, Ill. (Tuesday, June 20) – Near perfect weather greeted the world’s top junior golfers at Park Ridge Country Club this morning for Tuesday’s opening round of the 100th Western Junior – and the scores reflected the impeccable playing conditions and the talent in the field.
William Mouw, 16, of Chino, California, who led a group of 25 players shooting even par or better, teased the course record of 64 with a 5-under par 65 to claim the first-round lead.
Mouw, a junior at Ontario Christian High School in Ontario, California, who has verbally committed to play collegiate golf at Pepperdine University, started his round with a perfect drive on the 503-yard, par 5 10th hole.
“It was the first shot of the morning. I striped it 304 yards right down the middle,” Mouw said. “It felt great.” He eagled the hole and moved to 3 under with a birdie on the par 3 14th before dropping two shots with a double bogey at the 15th. But birdies on the next two holes, followed by two more over his last six holes took him to 5 under. A missed six-foot putt for birdie on the par 3 9th kept him from tying the course record of 64.
“Towards the end of the round, (my caddie) was helping me read putts, and he was a phenomenal green reader,” Mouw said. “I’ve never played in the Midwest before, and I wasn’t sure how much these greens broke, and we got the ball rolling … I made a couple of good putts… it was fun.”
Mouw said he didn’t pay too much attention to other scores in the morning round. “I just try to take it one shot at a time and keep to my own game,” he said. “There are a lot of great players out there.”
Mouw finished tied for second in the AJGA’s 2017 Heather Farr Classic and tied for fourth in the 2017 AJGA Junior at Greenhorn Creek.
One shot back of Mouw following morning play were 15-year-old Karl Vilips, 17-year-old Dawson Lewis and 18-year-old Laken Hinton, all at 4-under 66.
A sophomore at Saddlebrook Prep in Wesley Chapel, Florida, Vilips scrambled most of the day to stay on the leaderboard. Lewis, a senior at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas, putted his way to 7 under through 16 holes but faltered at the end with a bogey, double bogey finish. Hinton, who will be a freshman at Augusta University this fall, sank birdie putts on two of his final five holes to pull into the three-way tie for second. For all three, putting was the answer to Park Ridge’s tight fairways and thick rough.
“Honestly, I was all over the place,” said Vilips. “I didn’t have a par from holes eight to 18. But whenever I was in the fairway, I was able to capitalize.”
Vilips made eight birdie putts, “all inside 12 feet,” he said. “My irons have been on the last month, but my driver definitely needs some work.”
Helping the putting game were near perfect greens. “I love this course,” said Vilips. “The greens are in great condition, and the ball is rolling really well.”
Vilips, who grew up in Australia and has verbally committed to play his collegiate golf at Stanford, won the Junior Orange Bowl International in December 2016, tied for third in the Sergio Garcia Foundation Junior, tied for fourth in the 2017 Haas Family Invitational and finished ninth in the AJGA’s 2017 Thunderbird Invitational.
Lewis, who needed just 25 putts en route to his 66, also praised the course. “I liked the greens, the speed of the greens,” he said. “But it’s really a tight course. You have to stay in the fairway. The rough is pretty thick.”
Lewis, who along with Mouw and Vilips teed off in the morning, was still on the course when a brief storm clipped the course, He had to come off the course with three holes to play due to a 21-minute weather delay – 12:47-1:08 p.m. When play resumed, he birdied his 16th hole – the par 4, 370-yard 7th, but finished bogey, double bogey to slide back to 4 under. Lewis tied for 13th in the 2017 Hunter Mahan Championship.
Heading into Wednesday’s second round, “I’ll just come out and try to keep it in the fairway and hopefully have another good putting day,” said Lewis, who has not yet decided where he’ll play his college golf.
Hinton, who turned in the afternoon’s low score, said his short game was the difference. “I was putting really well, and that helped me a lot. It saved me on the greens I missed,” he said. “I love the course, and the greens are awesome.”
Hinton, of Delray Beach, Fla., finished 6th in the 2017 Scott Robertson Memorial and tied for fourth in the 2016 AJGA Junior at Oak Tree.
The shot of the day came on the par 3, 167-yard 12th, when Austin Murphy, 18, of Morgan Hill, California, holed his 7-iron tee shot for an ace. “There’s a ridge just short of the hole, so I couldn’t see it going in,” said Murphy, who will be a freshman this fall at Pepperdine. “I didn’t know I made it until I heard some people around the green yelling.”
The second round will be held Wednesday, with a 36-hole cut reducing the field of 156 to the low 44 scores and ties. The remaining contestants will play 36 holes Thursday to determine the winner of the historic Milt Woodard Trophy.