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Jay Skurski’s Golf: Holzhauer faces uphill battle in Jr. Masters title defense

Marc Holzhauer showed last season that it’s not about how you start the International Junior Masters – it’s how you finish.

So for those players currently outside of the top 32 after Tuesday’s first round of stroke play, the goal is clear: Do what it takes to make it into the championship flight. That will be set after a second round of stroke play Wednesday morning.

The list of those on the outside looking in after 18 holes at East Aurora Country Club includes the defending champion, who opened with a round of 81 Tuesday.

That sits four shots out of the top 32, which is held down by the round of 77 carded by four players, including Randolph’s Nolan Ditcher.

The leader after 78 players teed off is Tyler Hull of Toronto, who shot a sparkling, 3-under-par 68. Alejandro Madariaga of Puebla, Mexico is next at 1-under 70, followed by three players from New York at even-par 71, including Elma’s David Hanes.

“It went very well,” said tournament director Jeff Kamien of the first day of competition. “The weather was great, but the wind did pick up during the day.”

That made Hull’s score all the more noteworthy, as he teed off near the pack of the back.

“He made five birdies and just one bogey on the back, so that was impressive,” Kamien said.

A total of 19 players in this week’s field are in the top 1,000 of the Golfweek/Sagarin boys junior rankings, topped by Colombian Felipe Ramirez at No. 127. Golf being the fickle beast that it is, however, Ramirez finds himself well back after an opening 89.

A total of eight countries are represented in this year’s field, part of the reason tournament organizers believe its depth is as strong as it has been in recent memory.

New to the field are representatives of Venezuela, Iceland and Egypt. Venezuelan Mauro Stanchieri shot 75 Tuesday, while Lenny Bergsson of Iceland carded 76.

“The scores were lower today than I thought they’d be,” Kamien said of the overall play.

One disappointing absence from the field is 2014 champion Will Thomson. The former Pittsford resident who now resides in Naples, Fla., is ranked 26th by Golfweek and committed to the University of Texas as a high school freshman. Thomson, however, recently competed in the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup, representing the United States in Japan.

Colombian Simon Uribe, ranked 291st By Golfweek, shot 79 Tuesday and will have some work to do to get into the championship flight again this year. Uribe advanced to the quarterfinals last year before being eliminated by Holzhauer, who is attempting to become the first back-to-back winner since Briny Baird in 1988-89. Only three players have won the tournament more than once, with just one, John Konsek in the 1950s, winning it three times.

“He struggled today,” Kamien said of the defending champion. “He told me he was kind of hitting it all over the place. A lot of the kids were talking about how much they three-putted. The greens are rolling beautifully, but they’re fast.”

Local players Jacob Mertz of Williamsville and Mike Wells of Getzville each carded a round of 3-over 74 to share 11th place after 18 holes. Williamsville’s Ben Reichert and Darien Center’s Matthew Genaway are also positioned nicely after Tuesday’s opening round, as each carded 75.

The final round of stroke play begins at 7 a.m. Wednesday. After that, the field will be split into championship, gold, silver and bronze flights and match play in the championship bracket will begin. Play goes through Friday.

Chip-ins

• The local golf community suffered a loss last week with the death of Brian Williams. A member of the Buffalo District Golf Association’s board of directors, Williams was known as the “Golf Czar.” He passed away at age 70 after a battle with brain cancer.

• The BDGA held its Senior Scratch Tournament at Niagara Frontier Golf Club last week. Dr. Jim Smith shot a solid round of 75 to win, playing through 30 mph winds. Dan Irwin finished second, one shot behind at 76.

• The Western New York Public Links Golf Association held its Charles Barton Team Championship tournament recently at Hyde Park, with the host club winning the ‘A’ Division. The two-man teams of Mike Spanbauer and Jo Jo Perry (70), Jim Munro and Jerry Casero (64) and Stan Tubinis and Stosh Kajfasz (96) combined for a team total of 199, good for a two-shot win over the Sheridan Red team.

In the ‘B’ Division, the Cazenovia No. 1 team of Jim Queer and Tim Trevean (70), Joe Mure and Ray Lipczynski (72) and Dan McNamera and Rich Curran (72) shot a team total of 214, good for a one-shot win over the Sheridan White team.

• The upcoming Web.com Tour LECOM Health Challenge still has openings for its pro-am tournament which will be held Wednesday, July 6. The cost is $7,500 per foursome (or $1,875 for an individual player). Information is available at lecomhealthchallenge.com or by calling Michelle Turner at 661-8906.

• Christian Chapman of Victor shot a round of 3-over 74 to take medalist honors during the New York State Golf Association’s Boys and Girls Amateur qualifier held last week at Sheridan Park. Also qualifying in the juniors division (ages 15 to 17) were: Genaway (75), Wells (75), Cary Ignaczak (Derby, 75), Patrick Weir (Tonawanda, 75), Mitchell Smith (Orchard Park, 76), Andrew LaCongo (Holland, 77), Kevin Halpern (East Amherst, 78), Matthew Pawlak (North Tonawanda, 79), Randy Felber (Akron, 81), Noland Codd (Niagara Falls, 83), Cavan Derrigan (Tonawanda, 85), Nikko Lazzara (Elma, 85) and Alex Farkas (Tonawanda, 85).

In the boys division (ages 14 and under), Williamsville’s Matthew Jackson shot a round of 76 to win medalist honors. Ryan Hart of Naples, Fla., took second. Also qualifying were: Zachary Boyes (Tonawanda, 83), Aidan Shaw (Orchard Park, 86), Luke Stanley (South Wales, 86), Matthew Maouad (Clarence, 88), Anthony Delisanti (Sanborn, 88), Collin Zlotek (Depew, 92), Jaxon Hummel (North Tonawanda, 92), Tyler Birdd (Elma, 93), Jeremy Edmunds (Penfield, 102) and Dawson Miller (East Amherst, 105).

email: jskurski@buffnews.com