Not yet a junior in high school, Alex Green hammered his drive on the 10th hole at Alvamar public 335 yards, hit a knock-down gap wedge onto the green and drained the putt for a birdie that put him two-over par with eight holes left Tuesday in the first round of a two-day Kansas qualifier for the Trusted Choice “Big I” Junior Championship.
That sort of distance off the tee is what gives Green, who plays for Free State High, a high ceiling. Doing what he did to carry a three-over par score into the 10th hole are the keys to him reaching that ceiling.
As he stood on the sixth tee box, waiting for the group in front to finish the hole, Green clearly was enjoying himself, chatting with the golfers in his group from around the state. Nothing about the way he conducted himself suggested he had carded a double-bogey on No. 3 and a bogey on No. 5 to fall three-over par. He didn’t let two bad holes turn into a bad round.
Green followed his bogey on No. 5 with a string of four pars and a birdie, carded a bogey on 11 and six consecutive pars heading into No. 18. Green was behind the green in two when threatening skies caused a tournament official to tell the players to mark their balls and resume play the next morning. Once inside, the golfers were told they could finish the hole. The calm golfer who rattled off so many pars looked rattled when he returned to his shot, bladed his chip and carded a 6 to finish the day with a five-over par 77, tied for 13th in the field of 82 golfers. The top three boys and top two girls qualify for the national tournament in Mississippi.
Green didn’t have any trouble communicating what he learned from the final hole.
“Just stay calm, keep your composure, focus on that single shot, don’t worry about what your overall score is going to be and keep your head in the game,” he said.
Green did a terrific job of doing that for most of the five-and-a-half hour round, one of the many highlights during this summer of improvement.
“I’ve improved from a high-70s and low 80s to a mid-to-high 70s golfer,” Green said of his summer progress. “Just from practicing, coming here every day, chipping and putting.”
FSHS teammate Lee York, a senior, also has made strides this summer. He played well enough in Kansas Junior Golf Association events to represent the northeast section in the Junior Section Team Championship July 25-27 in Dodge City, but Tuesday wasn’t his day. He carded a 91 and complained of a sore back.
The first-day leaders in both the boys and girls competitions already have committed to play golf at Kansas University.
David Auer of Wichita, who will golf for KU this coming season, leads the boys division after shooting a 69, making him one of three players under par. Parker Miller of Kansas City, Kan., shot a 70 and Alex Forristal of Prairie Village shot a 71.
Defending Kansas “Big I” tourney champ Mackenzie Thayer of Garden City, who plans to enroll at KU for the 2012-2013 school year, shot a 75 to take a seven-stroke lead over Audrey Judd of Olathe.
Not all the boys finished before the rains came. They will tee off at 7 a.m. Max Soto of Free State stood at 19-over through 15 holes.