PARK RIDGE, Ill. (Wednesday, June 21) – Second-round leader William Mouw took quite a few steps in his home state of California in preparation for the 100th Western Junior. Now, after posting an 8-under 36-hole total of 132, Mouw feels he’s ready to take a huge step forward Thursday at Park Ridge Country Club.
“I knew this tournament was going to have 36 holes coming up (with the third and final rounds being played on Thursday), so back in California … I walked 36 holes – six days in a row,” said Mouw, 16, of Chino, California. “I’m used to walking a lot, so it’ll be nice.”
Walking two rounds in one day will be just one of the challenges. The other will be keeping the ball within Park Ridge’s narrow fairways and away from the thick rough and hundreds of trees that line the historic course.
“The whole week I’ve been one shot at a time,” said Mouw, who opened Tuesday with a 5-under 65 and followed with a 3-under 67 Wednesday. “Today, I didn’t make as many putts, but I kept the ball in play and stayed out of trouble. It’s a tough course. Bogeys out here are sometimes good scores.”
Mouw, a junior at Ontario Christian High School, has verbally committed to play his collegiate golf at Pepperdine University. He tied for second in the AJGA’s 2017 Heather Farr Classic and tied for fourth in the 2017 AJGA Junior at Greenhorn Creek.
Looking ahead to Thursday’s third and final rounds, Mouw plans to stay focused on the hole at hand. “I want to hit a lot of greens and give myself a lot of chances,” he said. “Anything even, or as many under as I can go, would be ideal … why hold back? Why not just go for it and go under?”
So far, that strategy has put Mouw in front of the pack, two shots ahead of Joe Weiler, 18, of Bloomington, Indiana, and three in front of Ashkay Bhatia, 15, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Aaron Chen, 16, of Fremont, California. Weiler and Bhatia both shot 5-under 65 to move near the top of the leaderboard.
For Weiler, staying out of trouble also has been the path to low scores this week.
“I’ve been hitting the driver well, playing from the fairway mostly,” said Weiler, who will join the Purdue golf team as a freshman this fall. “I made some long putts, a little luck, but I’ll take it. I’ve putted really well and I’ve been solid off the tee. I just need to hit my irons a little better.”
One of Weiler’s strategies for the marathon finish on Thursday, with temperatures set to climb into the upper 80s, is to “drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.”
While Weiler and Bhatia came close to Wednesday’s low score, the round of the day belonged to Sun-Yi Lu, 18, of New Taipei City, Taiwan, who tied the Park Ridge course record of 64.
Lu, who bested his opening round score of 75 by 11 strokes, credited his overnight improvement to adapting quickly to Park Ridge’s fast, smooth greens.
“At home the greens are slow and bumpy,” said Lu, who is heading back to Taiwan after junior golf competition. “The speed (of the greens on Taiwan courses) is about 7. Here, it’s like 12.”
On Tuesday, Lu three-putted twice and four-putted once. A day later, he had 10 one-putts, he noted.
Lu’s score of 33-31–64 matched the course record set by Fred Funk during a 2014 guest appearance at Park Ridge.
Lu was one of 52 players who made the 36-hole cut at two-over 142 or better. The third round will be played Thursday morning, followed by the afternoon final round and the 100th Western Junior trophy presentation to the champion.