ASHLAND Olivia Hensley knew her first golf round in the 60s was just a matter of time. The timing happened to be ideal.

The Boyd County High School senior-to-be is the first-round leader of her hometown Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior presented by BrickStreet Insurance after shooting 1-under par 69 on Wednesday at Bellefonte Country Club.

“One of my big goals was to be in the 60s in any tournament,” said Hensley, a first-team All-State high school player last fall. “Oh my gosh, it’s amazing that it came today. I just hope I can do it two more times.”

Playing in the American Junior Golf Association 54-hole event for the first time, Hensley sank a series of challenging putts down the stretch — some to save par and others for birdie.

She hit over a tree to make par on No. 13 and rolled in a 28-footer to match par on the next hole. Staring at a 12-foot downhill putt on No. 15, Hensley showed deft touch with a trickling shot into the cup for birdie.

The roll didn’t stop. Despite clipping tree limbs with her drive on 16, Hensley scrambled to save par with an 8-footer. She stuck her approach shot on No. 17 to 5 feet and made birdie, then saved par on the final hole from 6 feet away.

“I had some super tough putts,” Hensley said. “Some of the pars felt like birdies. I put myself in rough places sometimes with the driver, but somehow I made it work.”

Hensley recently joined BCC on a junior membership and put in extra practice time on her game after what she considered a slump.

“After taking a few days off, I went from noon to dusk the past three days,” said Hensley, who played in the Junior-Am tournament on Tuesday.      

Wednesday, she walked off the 18th green to a hug from Scott Hensley — her father and high school coach.

“I told him we have two more days, don’t get ahead of yourself,” Olivia said. “I know he’s really proud of me.”

The Morehead State University commit had plenty of support on her way to the top of the leaderboard. Along with family members, a group of about 10 friends followed her around the course.

“It made me so happy,” Hensley said. “If I hit a bad shot, they would give me a thumbs-up to lighten things up.”

Hensley holes a one-shot edge over Emily Zhu (Richmond Hill, Ontario) and Tianyi Zhuang in the 48-player girls division. Two shots back at 71 are Ellen Dong and Leila Raines (Galena, Ohio). Zhuang and Dong are both from China and playing out of Florida.

Ashland’s Kate Hanni, another Kentucky first-team All-Stater, opened with an 81.

On a pleasant day, the breeze kicked up with occasional gusts during the afternoon. A patio umbrella even blew out of its stand at the scoreboard.

Jolo Timothy Magcalayo, one of the day’s earliest starters, surged into boys’ lead.

On the day his school in the Philippines started classes, 16-year-old Magcalayo fired a 4-under 66 in the field of 96.

Magcalayo said he won’t have trouble making up the classwork, but his focus now is putting together two more strong rounds at Bellefonte.

“I want to win,” Magcalayo said with enthusiasm. “I like this tournament. The people are friendly. This course, you can practice a lot on the putting green and driving range. Other places are stricter.”

Coached by their father — Joey Magcalayo — Jolo and his sister Ella, 18, have an uncle in New Jersey and are playing AJGA events during a two-month stay.

Last year, Jolo won the AJGA Preview at Waubeeka and later qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.

He’s off to great start at Bellefonte, highlighted by an eagle on No. 11. Magcalayo drove the green and made his 17-foot putt.

“It’s a normal course for me,” he said. “The Philippines have some courses that are narrow with tall trees. Some are hilly.”

Magcalayo knows he has plenty of work to do as six players are within three shots of the lead.

“There’s a long way to go,” he said.

Among players from the Tri-State area, youngster Cameron Phillips of Portsmouth is next at 76, one shot ahead of Ashland’s Billy Gussler. Jacob Perry (Huntington) and Dylan Stultz followed with 79s.     

 

Ace and eagles

Jarred Bowser of Urbandale, Iowa, hit a 6-iron for a hole-in-one on 177-yard No. 12. The opening round also produced four eagles.

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rstanley@dailyindependent.com