GENEVA – The local youth golf scene was alive and well with the colors of summer flashing on golfers' shirts during the first round of the IJGA-CDGA Junior Amateur Tournament Wednesday.
More than 190 male and female golfers converged on Mill Creek Golf Course in Geneva, separating into a junior male pool of 156 golfers and 36 female golfers, all between the ages of 14-18, for the first day of the three-day tournament.
Experience and knowledge of Mill Creek was an advantage for local golfers like St. Charles East senior Ronnie Griggs.
Griggs, sporting bright neon orange attire, similar to his favorite PGA golfer, Rickie Fowler, thinks Mill Creek is a “placement course.”
“A lot of it depends where the tees are placed at. From further back, it tends to be a little bit harder … you have to put your tee shots in the right place [to] give yourself easier chances,” Griggs said.
Griggs started his morning with a bogey on a par-4, but bounced back with five straight pars. That pattern continued as Griggs paced himself with only three bogeys the rest of round one, while hitting par on the remaining holes.
After the first round, the six-year IJGA veteran Griggs is tied for 34th with eight other competitors, scoring a 76, 5 over par.
Teeing off later in the afternoon was Griggs' golf teammate at East, Kevin Sobieski, and he agrees with the notion of the course's difficulty.
“There's definitely a lot of out-of-bounds,” he said. “You gotta try to keep [the ball] in the fairway as much as possible.”
Sobieski hit par on his first two holes but struggled with bogeys throughout the day, finishing with four bogeys, four double-bogeys, and a tedious hole No. 3, which resulted in a quadruple bogey. He finished with a score of 87.
Few of the challenges seemed to faze Geneva sophomore Graham Lillibridge, as he estimates he's played at Mill Creek a combined 15 times throughout his high school season and other occasions.
Lillibridge competed at the varsity level last season, and despite being only a freshman, he played in his team's No. 1 spot, and helped his team secure the Upstate Eight River Championship. However, Wednesday marked his first time competing at the Junior Amateur.
While he's looking to maintain pace with the rest of the pack in terms of scoring, Lillibridge is hoping to do even better – win the whole thing.
“It's going to take two solid days of scoring around even par,” he said. “There's a lot of good kids here … [I'm] going to have to play pretty close to flawless golf for the entire week.”
Heading into round two today, Lillibridge is tied for 10th, sharing the spot with four other competitors. They all scored 2 over par with 73s. Lillibridge finished with three birdies on the day.
After the first round, first place is shared between Nathaniel Lee (Skokie), Andrew Huber (Winnetka) and Anthony Bolden (Mokena), with all players shooting 2-under par 69s.
In the girls division, reigning 2013 Chronicle Girls Golfer of the Year and St. Charles North sophomore Gianna Furrie isn't spending a lot of time worrying about high expectations.
“There's a lot of good players here,” Furrie said. “I'm going to play the best I can, and hope for the best … I'm hoping for a score in the mid-70s.”
Furrie converted pars on her first two holes and then had back-to-back bogeys. The theme of hitting bogeys for much of the playing field continued with Furrie, as she finished round one with seven bogeys, one double bogey, and a tough triple bogey on her final hole of her afternoon. Furrie sits in a three-way tie for 10th place with a score of 83.
Jenna Kurosky, of Burlington Central, leads the girls division with a 4-over par 75.
Competition resumes at 7:30 a.m. today with the boys division teeing off. Visit ijga.org for tee times.