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Wind the great equalizer at Junior Masters

The three golfers tied for the lead after the first round of the International Junior Masters managed to keep their chins up and their outlook sunny despite tough conditions.

The wind at East Aurora Country Club blew at a steady 20 mph and gusted to 30 mph all day, which caused a lot of slumped shoulders and shaking of heads as the golfers walked off the course.

“It was tough, but I didn’t try to fight it,” said Canadian MacKenzie Carter. “I love coming down to this course. It’s a great course in great shape.”

“Going out I knew that a bogey or two wasn’t going to kill me,” said East Amherst’s Ben Reichert. “I knew scores were going to be high and I already had seen some high scores on the board. I tried to eliminate the big number.”

“The wind was tough, but other than that it was really, really, really nice out there,” said Patrick DiPasquale of the Rochester suburb of Pittsford.

Was their good attitude the cause or effect of their good scores? Probably a little of both. Carter, Reichert and DiPasquale all shot 2-over par 73 to lead a field of 79 in the 63rd annual event.

How tough was it on the hilly, 6,400-yard EACC layout?

In last year’s first round, 21 players scored better than 75 and four broke par. On Tuesday, just four players broke 75 and no one broke par.

The best way to deal with a crosswind is to shape the shot into the wind with a draw or fade. But not even all PGA Tour players, let alone juniors, are willing to go against the natural shape of their shot in harsh conditions.

“The wind was obviously way up there,” said defending champion Will Thomson, who stood tied for fifth at 75. “I said to myself before the round 75 would be a really good score. … I hit a little bit of a draw. If there’s a right-to-left wind, I’ll just try to aim a little bit right and hit a straighter shot and let the wind take it back.”

“I tried to hit it as straight as I could,” Carter said. “I hit a draw. But I can hit a fade with my driver, which I did a couple times.”

Carter is an 18-year-old from Cobourg, Ont., about an hour east of Toronto. He will attending Western University of Ontario in the fall.

Reichert, 17, just finished his junior year at Williamsville North and plays out of Transit Valley Country Club. He won the New York Junior PGA title earlier this month, was the top Section VI qualifier to the state high school meet and claimed the Buffalo District junior match play crown last summer.

DiPasquale, 17, plays out of the famed Oak Hill Country Club. He helped his McQuaid Jesuit squad win the Rochester-area high school team title this year.

Standing fourth at 3-over 74 was Baker Stevenson, an 18-year-old from Hartland, Mich., just north of Ann Arbor. He played in the U.S. Junior Amateur last year. Stevenson made an eagle on the par-5 12th hole, hitting a 3-wood from 230 yards to 12 feet.

Thomson was tied at 75 with Simon Uribe, the No. 3-ranked player in Colombia. Thomson, who just finished eighth grade, became the youngest IJM champion as a 13-year-old last year. He was the youngest player ever at the event as a 12-year-old in 2013. He was the youngest player ever to make the U.S. Amateur last summer.

The players received a stern welcome to their round with East Aurora’s 425-yard No. 1 hole. It played dead into the wind and surrendered just 17 pars and two birdies. There were 40 bogeys, 16 doubles and four triple-bogeys on it.

The 533-yard, par-5 seventh hole, also mostly into the wind, was tough, too. It gave up just five birdies and 30 pars. There were 29 bogeys and 15 doubles or worse.

The field plays another 18 holes of stroke play Wednesday morning before breaking into match-play pairings. The title match is Friday afternoon.