No. 2 Gianna Clemente is second in Girls Division; Four Boys tied for third
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (Aug. 2, 2023) ー The heat wasn’t the only thing rising at the 47th Junior PGA Championships as new faces vaulted to the top of the leaderboards following the second day of play at Hot Springs Country Club.
Kylee Choi is the new leader in the Girls Division while Miles Russell, the No. 7-ranked junior on the Rolex AJGA Rankings, and Michael Riebe are co-leaders among the Boys following the first 36 holes.
Choi, who began the day in third place, followed her opening-round 66 with a 4-under-67, moving her to 9-under-133 for the championship. The 16-year-old from Murrieta, California, carded seven birdies Wednesday, closing her round on the Arlington Course with two straight on holes 8 and 9 to give her a one-stroke lead heading into the third round.
“I didn’t even realize I had seven birdies until I just finished,” said Choi. “My drives were actually going further than yesterday, so that was helping a lot considering Arlington plays a little longer. My putts were really good, so I was able to make up-and-downs. I had a few trouble holes where I went in the hazard, but I was able to save them with bogeys and recover them with more birdies.”
Not bad for Choi, considering she didn’t have a practice round on the Park Course and had to rush to her practice round on the Arlington Course after a redeye flight.
“I landed like three hours before my tee time, so I was half-asleep the whole round, and I honestly didn’t remember some of the holes,” said Choi. “I didn’t have to overthink it, it was just hit it where you see it and see what happens.”
First round leader Gianna Clemente, the No. 2-ranked junior from Estero, Florida, sits in second after following up her record-tying opening round with a 1-under-70 to give her a score of 8-under-134 in the championship. Yana Wilson, the No. 4-ranked junior from Henderson, Nevada, is third at 5-under-137 after carding a 1-over-72 on the day.
Russell, of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, improved to 8-under-134 overall as the Boys co-leader heading into round three. He started his round with a birdie and an eagle en route to a 4-under-67, adding three more birdies along the way.
“I started on 11 and I chipped in,” said Russell. “I hit a good drive [on 12]. I think I got it just through the fairway and into the first cut. I tried to chip a 7-iron and just overdid it but had a nice lie. I had a good memory from the hole before so it just one-hopped in and that was that.”
Riebe fired a bogey-free 5-under-66 on the Park Course Wednesday to join Russell in a tie atop the leaderboard. The Encinitas, California, native connected on his fifth birdie of the day to close out his round on the par-3, 201-yard 10th.
“The last [birdie] was great,” said Riebe. “I was kind of nervous going into it bogey-free, and I didn’t want to make a bogey on a tougher hole. My putter was really good today. It’s been kind of cold as of recent, but today I made a lot of good 10- to 20-footers.”
Four boys are tied for third at 6-under-136 following the first two rounds: Kihei Akina from Alpine, Utah (3-under-68); Jack Vojtko from Stow, Ohio (4-under-67); Will Gordon from Hot Springs, Arkansas (6-under-65); and No. 3 Jay Leng from San Diego, California (3-under-68).
The 47th Junior PGA Championships continue Thursday at Hot Springs Country Club with play moving exclusively to the Arlington Course. Third-round action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. CT.
131 Players Make the Cut
The cutline came in at 5-over for the Girls after play ended, sending 67 competitors into the third round.
In the Boys Division, the cutline was 3-over, with 64 advancing to play on Thursday.
A second cut will be made after 54 holes to the low-30 boys and low-30 girls, plus ties.
Two Arkansas Natives Make the Cut
Of the 10 Arkansas junior golfers competing this week at Hot Springs Country Club, two will continue playing Thursday after making the initial cut: Will Gordon from Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Anna Kate Nichols from Little Rock, Arkansas.
“[Playing the Junior PGA Championships in Hot Springs] means so much to me,” said Gordon. “Playing in big tournaments and having the support system because it’s your hometown and your home country club, it’s a pretty big deal.”
Gordon was the biggest mover on cut day, rising up 34 spots to move into a tie for third after posting a round of 6-under-65 that included birdies in bunches on holes 4-5, 7-9 and 11-12. Following a first day score of even-par-71, he sits at 6-under-136 and two strokes off the lead. The 17-year-old is a member of Hot Springs Country Club and lives 10 minutes from the courses that he says he knows “about as well as anybody.”
Nichols, who is committed to play in-state at the University of Arkansas, is T-42 with a score of 4-over-146 after posting rounds of 72-74.
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Alan Cox, PGA of America, 972-214-8274, email@example.com