Competition heats up at KGA Junior Amateur

The tournament trophy glistened Wednesday on a table at Eagle Bend Golf Course as a reminder to those involved in the Kansas Golf Assn. Junior Amateur Championship why they were playing in sweltering heat: an inspiration for their perspiration.

After the first two rounds, there’s a logjam on the leaderboard entering today’s final round.

Brett Iliff of Leawood carded the best two-day score of 137 after following his 68 on Tuesday with a 69. The Blue Valley North product hit three bogeys, but more than made up for his mistakes with four birdies, and an eagle on hole No. 9.

Iliff’s closest threat is a close friend. Tyler Trout, also from Leawood, said he had known Iliff since second or third grade.

Trout, a recent Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst graduate and Oklahoma City University signee, was a stroke back at 138.

Jack Courington of Wichita and Kyle Smell and Brad Boan of Overland Park were another stroke behind.

Nathan Melin, of Olathe, tees off at the KGA Junior Amateur Championship. Melin played Wednesday at Eagle Bend.

“My strategy for this tournament has been to play conservative on the par-4s : just to make sure the ball is on the fairway,” Trout said.

The par-5s were a different story.

“I’ve been attacking the par-5s,” Trout said. “I’m trying to get-up-and-down for a birdie.”

Trout’s Jekyll-and-Hyde approach paid: Of his five birdies, three happened on par-5 holes.

Courington tallied six birdies and two bogeys, crediting his success to a recently improved putting game. The Wichita Southeast junior practiced for 45 extra minutes Wednesday before his 1:30 p.m. tee time.

“It was putting for sure,” Courington said. “I hit my wedges great the last two days, but today I was getting the 10-footers to go in.”

Tuesday’s leader, Smell, came down to earth a little bit, shooting a 74 on Wednesday after a smoldering 65 on Tuesday.

The tournament’s last two champions, Dodge Kemmer of Wichita and Jason Schulte of Kansas City, Mo., each finished with a two-day total of 140, as did Ben Lowman of Manhattan.

For a second straight day, temperatures climbed into the 90s, giving the older competitors who went out in the morning wave a clear advantage.

“Heat’s definitely a factor on both days,” Schulte said. “There’s some spots on the course where the trees keep all the wind from moving. It’s absolutely an oven.”

The tournament’s original field of 192 players has been sliced to 79 for today’s final round. Tee times will start at 7:30 a.m., with the leaders teeing off at 8:50 and 9 a.m.