ASHLAND A wind-whipped second round left new names atop the leaderboard in the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior presented by BrickStreet Insurance.
China’s Yuze Zhang remained steady in the strong gusts to shoot a 4-under 66 and overtake first-round leader Jolo Timothy Magcalayo of the Philippines in the boys division.
On the girls’ side, Canadian Emily Zhu posted her second consecutive even-par round to take over first place.
Zhu said she got lucky because of her early tee time.
“There wasn’t much wind, or rain,” she said. “It was more calm.”
What began as breezes soon intensified. The afternoon also brought a shower including hail.
Boyd County’s Olivia Hensley carried a one-shot lead into Thursday after shooting a personal-best 69 the previous day.
Her red-hot putter cooled overnight, however. Hensley three-putted No. 10 to begin the second round and slipped to an 80.
“If I could have taken a little bit of that (putting success) and carried it to today ...” she said.
The air turbulence didn’t help matters.
“It’s been kind of windy all day and picked up at the end,” Hensley said. “Especially here you don’t have room for error.”
Bluegrass Junior participants would agree that Bellefonte’s tight fairways present a challenge even on a still day.
Hensley said nerves also came into play in the second round.
“After shooting that low yesterday, it was like waking up with a target on my back,” she said.
Hensley finished the round on a high note by making a 10-foot putt to save par on No. 9. She’s tied for 13th entering today’s final round at 7:30 a.m. Admission is free and open to the public.
“Make the best of it now,” said the hard-working Hensley, a 2019 National High School Coaches Association Academic All-American.
Following the second round, the field was trimmed to the low 48 boys and 24 girls — plus ties.
Zhu, from Richmond Hill, Ontario, started on the back nine and picked up momentum by sinking birdie putts of 12 feet on No. 12 and 9 feet on No. 14.
“It made me feel pretty good about my round,” said Zhu, who has a one-shot lead over Leila Raines of Galena, Ohio.
The 15-year-old has experience in the AJGA as well as the Canadian Junior Golf Association. Last year, she finished second in the Canadian Junior Qualifier, securing her a spot on the country’s national junior team.
It also helped Zhu qualify for the Duke or York Young Champions tournament in Scotland — her first time to play in Europe.
Zhu’s younger brother, Andre, made the cut Thursday with a two-round total of 147 in his second AJGA event.
Portsmouth’s Cameron Phillips is another up-and-comer. The 13-year-old played his way into his first AJGA tournament with a birdie on the first hole of Monday’s qualifier.
Phillips then proceeded to birdie his first three holes in Wednesday’s opening round. He missed the cut by one stroke after back-to-back 76s.
“I chipped good, but I didn’t putt very well,” Cameron said of his second round.
His father, Tyson Phillips, ran the Shawnee State Park golf course in Friendship, Ohio, for 15 years and also coached Greenup County’s girls basketball team for two seasons.
“We are really excited about playing here,” Tyson Phillips said. “All the members and staff of Bellefonte do a great job running this for the kids. Cameron’s disappointed. He had three lip-outs for birdie today. He came here expecting to win.”
Tyson estimated that Cameron has already won “between 80 and 100” tournaments in his young lifetime.
Zhang, who has been training in Florida for three years, birdied three of his first five holes and later eagled No. 1.
“I played better today than yesterday,” said Zhang, who has experience playing in windy conditions. “Some holes, it helped me if it was downwind. In Florida, you get a lot of big winds.”
Zhang’s total stands at 135, one shot better than Magcalayo. Third-place Nick Rakes (Evington, Virginia) put together his second consecutive round of 69.
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