Billy Tom Sargent made a bold move in his final American Junior Golf Association tournament.
The Western Kentucky University signee from Georgetown, Ky., fired seven birdies in Thursday’s second round to grab a two-shot lead in the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior.
Sargent, winner of Kentucky high school’s Mr. Golf award as a junior and senior, came to Ashland looking for a different title. He placed fourth and fifth at Bellefonte Country Club the past two seasons.
“It would be great,” he said. “This is my last AJGA.”
Thailand native Fai Khamborn, who lives in Cincinnati, is trying to go wire to wire in the girls division. She has a two-shot advantage on Haylee Harford, the 2012 and ‘13 Bluegrass Junior champion.
Final-round tee times today will run from 7:30-9:18 a.m. off the first and 10th tees. Admission is free.
Sargent changed his approach Thursday after shooting a 2-over 72 in the opening round.
“Today my focus was hitting fairways and greens,” he said. “I only hit two fairways and nine greens (Wednesday). I hit eight fairways and 13 greens today. It was a big difference. I just played more conservative. I hit some 2-irons and 3-woods instead of using driver so much.”
The wind picked up during Wednesday’s second wave, but Sargent was in charge. He shot 33 on the front side and 32 on the back, including two consecutive birdies to end the round. The 5-under par score of 65 was one stroke off his tournament best.
“It’s a good feeling,” Sargent said. “I just wanted to come back to Ashland and play one more time. I know about half the field.”
Luke Miller of Venetia, Pa., also made a move Wednesday with his 3-under 67 for a 139 total. China-born Zongfan Li of Bradenton, Fla., is three shots off the lead after posting a 68.
Grayson’s Ryan Gillum is tied for 19th at 145 following a second-round score of 73.
“I had a solid round, but didn’t make as many birdies today,” said Gillum, who turned 17 on Wednesday. “I had some decent looks all day, I just couldn’t get them to drop.”
Gillum wasn’t feeling 100 percent and said the course played tough.
“The wind was a factor,” he said. “If you put the ball in the right spot, you can shoot a good number.”
Boyd County senior-to-be Drew Burke accomplished a major goal by making the cut in his first AJGA appearance.
Burke’s 73 in the second round left him at 149 and tied for 35th in the 108-player boys division.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” Burke said. “It’s fun. The tournament is run really well. That makes it enjoyable for everybody.”
Khamborn remained atop the girls’ leaderboard, shooting 72 for a two-day total of 142. A birdie on No. 10 gave her a lift.
“I’m just going to try my best tomorrow to win the tournament,” she said.
Harford, meanwhile, is looking for another grand finish at Bellefonte. She shot 73 in the second round.
“Today went pretty well until the last five holes when I got a little shaky,” Harford said of a stretch of three bogeys.
“I’m two behind going into the last day,” she said. “I’m going to play the best I can and hopefully get that three-peat.”
Russell High’s Baylee Salyers, playing in her first AJGA event, finished with a two-day total of 182.
“I was really nervous,” she said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself for this, and it fought back. I wish it could have been a better score, but it was a great first AJGA experience.”
Most of her fun came in Tuesday’s practice.
“There were three guys in my group and we joked around,” Salyers said. “That’s what made me excited for the rest of the tournament.”
One of those golfers, Bryce Johnson of Oakton, Va., opted to missed his prom and graduation to play in the Bluegrass Junior. He made the cut at 151.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.