Soggy conditions didn't stop AJGA golfers


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By DAN HINER

dhiner@vindy.com

BOARDMAN

The qualifying round of the Mahoning Valley Hospital Foundation Junior All-Star was canceled Sunday due to flooding.

Rain reappeared on Tuesday, threatening completion of the first round of the tournament.

But after nearly an hour, the rain subsided and play resumed.

The field of more than 100 golfers started at 7 a.m. at Mill Creek Golf Course’s North venue. Tuesday’s round didn’t finish until just after 9 p.m.

Jackson Finney of Louisville, Ky., shot a 4-under 65 to lead the boys.

Kevin Zhao (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Topher Reed (Fairview Park) each shot a 67. Garrett Kessler (North Caldwell, N.J.) and Andres Barraza (Parkland, Fla.) both finished with a 68 to round out the top five scorers.

Emma Chen of Derwood, Md., leads the girls standings with an even 69. Chen led at 4 under prior to play being suspended.

“[The lead] is kind of unexpected, to be honest,” Chen said. “It’s good. I was pretty wet out there but I was able to chip and putt pretty well. That saved me a lot.”

Hoi Ki Lau (Hong Kong) and Kaia Wu (Princeton, N.J.) both shot a 70. Julie Shin (Brambleton, Va.) finished with a 71 and Anna Ritter (New Albany) had a 72.

Brian Tolnar, Mill Creek’s PGA professional, estimated that the course saw 12 inches of rain over the last two weeks.

After the rain delay, he joked that one more inch and the course might get swept away.

An American Junior Golf Association and Mill Creek staff assessed the course Tuesday at 6 a.m.

Damp conditions caused the course to play long at the start of the round. Balls off the tee and iron shots would dig themselves into some of the fairways.

Sophia Sarrazin, from Westport, Conn., was hitting her second shot on the 18th hole was the AJGA crew blew an air horn to signal stoppage of play.

“All the ball just stopped or drives wouldn’t go as far — you had to club up every few shots,” Sarrazin said.

Sarrazin is tied for 14th with a 76. She said the front nine gave her problems, but she gained some ground in the final nine holes.

“There was just so much water everywhere,” Sarrazin said. “You couldn’t chunk a shot or it just wouldn’t work.”

Landon Underhill traveled from Aylmer, Ontario, to compete in the tournament. He had just made the turn when play stopped. He said the rain has been a little frustrating.

“For sure it is, for sure,” said Underhill, how finished with a 71. “But it’s still a great tournament, and I’m happy to be here even though the weather didn’t [co-operate].”

The extra rain didn’t help halfway through the afternoon group’s round. After the storm, Mill Creek’s crew rolled the greens and took plungers to several cups to clear them of water.

Mill Creek’s only water hazard is the creek that runs through both courses. But suddenly golfers were greeted to small ponds along the fairways.

“Hole 9 was kind of iffy because there was a puddle, a really big puddle in the middle of the fairway,” Chen said. “And there’s a creek, and the creek was kinda flooding and overflowing.”

Tolnar said the course should have plenty of time to drain the water overnight.

The first and second rounds are split into morning and afternoon groups. The two groups will swap tee times today, with Tuesday’s second group starting at 7 a.m. and the first beginning at 1 p.m.

The field will be cut to 70 following today’s round. The final round will be played on Thursday.

Chen wants to keep the same mentality she had on Tuesday when she tees off in the second round.

“[I will] just try to stay in the same mental state that I’m in today,” Chen said. “I was pretty focused today. I hope to remain like that in the next two rounds.

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