GRANITEVILLE — With conditions seeming a bit friendlier coming into Saturday’s second round of the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club, leader Sam Horsfield thought a low number would show up on the leaderboard.
“I thought somebody was going to shoot 65 today; I thought somebody was going to go low,” Horsfield said after a second round that saw very little wind and a light rain in the early afternoon. “Yeah, the greens were soft – they were holding. But the pins weren’t too easy, but I just thought somebody was going to go low.”
Instead, only three golfers broke 70, one more than the first round, and Horsfield was able to move his lead from one stroke to two after backing up a first-round 68 with a one-under 71.
The 16-year-old born in Great Britian but residing in the Orlando, Fla., area moved his score to 7-under on two occasions in the second round before back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13. He birdied No. 14, made par on 15 and 16 and then bogeyed the difficult No. 17, a 499-yard par 4 with water to the immediate right of the green.
He said his choice to go for the pin on his second shot on the 17th hole was not a wise one considering he had a three-stroke lead at the time.
“When you’ve got an accessible pin, you’ve got to go at it, but if you have 6-iron in, you don’t go at pins, like I did at 17 today,” Horsfield said. “It was just a terrible mistake.”
With Kristoffer Ventura in the clubhouse at 3-under, Horsfield set himself up for what he estimated as a 10-foot putt for par on No. 18 to stay at 5-under. He made the putt, and Horsfield said having a two-stroke lead heading into the final round after a day when he “didn’t make as many putts” was a definite plus.
“That’s huge. I didn’t want to finish bogey-bogey,” he said. “Two is better than one, so that putt on 18 was pretty big.”
Ventura, who was born in Mexico and has since moved to Norway, did most of his work late to follow a first-round 71 with a second-round 70. The 18-year-old finished Saturday in second place by himself after playing the back nine 3-under with three birdies and no bogeys.
“Today was fun,” he said. “I played steady. I hit a lot of greens, but I made some putts as well.”
Ventura said he felt he played better on Friday, but a 7 on the par-3 second hole held him back from scoring well overall in the first round despite seven Friday birdies.
Horsfield and Ventura will be playing in today’s final group with Robby Shelton, the No. 1 ranked junior golfer according to Golfweek. Shelton, an Alabama native, carded a 68 on Saturday, tied for the best round of the day with Sam Burns. Both of them are in a seven-way tie for third place at 2-under heading into the final round.
Included in that jumble is Rico Hoey, who had sole possession of second place after the first round at 3-under and looked poised to stay there for much of Saturday’s round. The 17-year-old from California was as low as 5-under after a chip-in birdie on No. 11, two back of Horsfield and ahead of the rest of the pack, but four bogeys and only one birdie in the last seven holes cost him a couple spots on the leaderboard.
Also in the tie for third are Pendleton High teammates Austin Langdale and Carson Young. After shooting matching even-par 72s on Friday, the duo carded 70s on Saturday. Langdale, who birdied Nos. 2, 6 and 13 before a bogey on No. 14, said that consistency and calmer conditions were key to his under-par round.
“I just hit more greens,” the Clemson-bound senior said. “I mean, the wind wasn’t a factor today like it was yesterday, and I just hit a lot of greens, had a lot of two-putts. So it was just a more consistent round.”
Rounding out the group at 2-under are Matthew Fitzpatrick and Corey Pereira.
Because of a 50 percent chance of rain that is only expected to increase later today, tournament organizers have elected to tee groups off earlier and start groups on both Nos. 1 and 10 instead of just the first hole.
Today’s tee times will begin at 8 a.m., with Horsfield, Ventura and Shelton teeing off last on No. 1 at 9:20 a.m. Fitzpatrick, Pereira and Hoey are set for 9 a.m. on No. 1, and Burns, Young and Langdale are scheduled for 9:10 a.m. on the first hole.
Horsfield said he expects a high energy level when he starts his quest for a win today.
“It’s going to be adrenaline rush on the first hole, definitely, and it’s going to be fun,” the 36-hole leader said. “I’m just going to go out there and see what happens.
For a full list of tee times, visit www.juniorinvitational.com/pdf/round3.pdf.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.