LUBBOCK, Texas - When Ben Bankhead of McKinney, Texas birdied his opening two holes, he was well on his way to a solid round, but he was just getting started as he went on to birdie three consecutives holes - Nos. 12-14 - and No. 17 on the back to shoot a 5-under-par 67 and take the first-round lead by one shot at the Randy Smith Classic presented by the Lubbock Sports Authority. Dana Finkelstein of Chandler, Ariz., finished both of her sides in style, making birdies on Nos. 9 and 18 to finish with a two-shot edge over the rest of the field in the Girls Division at 1-over-par 73.
Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the Randy Smith Classic presented by the Lubbock Sports Authority is a 54-hole stroke play event being held at The Rawls Course at Texas Tech University. The tournament field consists of 120 boys and girls, ages 12-18, from 10 states, Mexico, Philippines, and China. The Boys Division is playing the par-72 course at 7,019 yards, while the Girls Division is playing at 6,231 yards.
On a day like Tuesday when there is no wind in sight and the ball seemingly rolls forever on the hard Texas earth, The Rawls Course becomes ripe for low scoring as the players are often left with short irons into holes, and Bankhead took advantage all day with his aggressive style of play, smashing drivers off the tees and firing at the flags, which resulted in six birdies and zero bogeys as he headed into his final hole. After another beautiful tee shot on the par-5 No. 18 that left him with only a 4-iron in, he decided to abandon the aggressiveness that had served him well all day, instead deciding to play it safe and lay up. He went on to three-putt on the green for his lone bogey of the day, learning a lesson on continued aggressiveness - a lesson that he says he won't forget when he tees off with the lead Wednesday, calling the second round "moving day" and saying that he won't even look at any scores before teeing off Wednesday, despite possessing the 18-hole lead.
"I played really good until the last hole. I had a 4-iron in and didn't feel comfortable with it, so I laid up and then didn't hit a very good pitch and then three-putted for bogey," Bankhead said. "I can't complain, though, because I was solid all the way around, didn't make many mistakes and my putting from eight feet and in was very good all day. I'm pretty pleased overall."
Although Bankhead possesses a one-shot lead, there are a host of players hot on his tail with Tyson Turnbow of nearby Muleshoe, Texas, Curtis Yonke of Overland Park, Kan., Scott Scheffler of Dallas, and Matthew Helms of Edmond, Okla., all firing rounds of 4-under-par 68, leaving them just one shot behind Bankhead and ready to steal the lead he covets.
After an inconsistent front nine in which she made three birdies and two bogeys, Finkelstein played steady on the back nine, making pars on her first seven holes before bogeying the par-5 No. 17. However, that bogey was quickly negated with a birdie on the final hole. With a two-shot lead, Finkelstein plans to continue the strategy of what served her well today, hitting fairways and greens and continuing to make putts.
"I hit a lot of fairways and greens, and my putting was good all day," Finkelstein said. "I made a lot of key putts for birdies and pars."
Finkelstein will have to continue the hot putting on Wednesday, as Chelsea Bretcher and Kaylin Terry of Austin, Texas, Tezira Abe of Angleton, Texas, Giovana Maymon of Huixquilucan, Mexico, and hometown favorite Mariah Montoya of Lubbock, Texas, have their sights set on her lead, sitting two shots back of Finkelstein in a tie for second at 3-over-par 75.
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA, the largest Association of its kind, has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 30 foreign countries.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which is in its third decade of AJGA support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Polo Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 350 wins. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Cristie Kerr, Pat Hurst, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel and Julieta Granada.
Second-round tee times for the Randy Smith Classic presented by The Lubbock Sports Authority will run from 7:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 17, off the No. 1 tee at The Rawls Course at Texas Tech University. For more information, please contact Tournament Director Walker Hill at (678) 617-2417.