Not many people in the clubhouse at Eagle Bend Golf Course were familiar with Kyle Smell's name before Tuesday, but after the first day of the Kansas Golf Assn. Junior Amateur Championship "that Smell kid" was leading the way with a score of 7-under-par 65.
With a powerful drive and an equally effective approach shot, Smell knocked in five birdies - including an eagle on hole No. 9 - to put himself on top of the scoreboard featuring some of the top high school talent in the state.
"If you're hitting your driver," Jason Schulte said, "you're going to have flip wedges all day."
That was Smell's exact formula.
"I was hitting my drives good all day," said Smell, a Blue Valley West junior-to-be. "That's what you need to score low here. It's not that long of a course. If you hit the fairway, you can put the second shot close and more than likely hit the next shot for a birdie."
The 16-year-old was one of 15 golfers who shot under par on the day, leading to an eventual ruling by tournament officials to tip all holes today, moving every participant to the back tee. Tuesday, players teed off 20 to 30 feet from the back tee.
"I think that will be great. A lot of these holes are really short," said Schulte, the event's 2003 winner who was in second with a score of 67 after sinking six birdies and an eagle. "I think by moving it back, the course will play normally."
Added Brett Illiff: "They definitely could make it play a lot longer. But it's not easy (now) by means. They had the pins set pretty difficult. I can only imagine it will get more difficult throughout the week."
Schulte rolled through the back nine with a tally of 31, before having to "kind of fight for the 36" on the front nine. After hitting a double-bogey on No. 2 and hitting the ball out of play on No. 9, the Rockhurst Hawklet hit three birdies to pull even on the front nine.
Leawood native Illiff was 5 under through eight holes before ending with a three-way tie for third with a 68. Joining Illiff were two Wichita residents, Taylor Ashpole and Spencer Alefs.
Of the 15 players under par, six of them call Wichita home.
Last year's champion, Dodge Kemmer, also from Wichita, found himself in the middle of the pack at the end of Tuesday's round by shooting a 72.
Four players were knotted for the fourth best score of 69.
Tee-times will start at 7:30 a.m. today and end at 1:50 p.m. as they did Tuesday. After today, the field of 192 players will be cut to a minimum of 75 players, KGA golf programs manager Casey Old said. Usually 80 to 90 golfers make the cut, though, as Thursday's participants are comprised of the top 15 in all five age groups plus any ties.