Murphy in first at PGA Junior tour

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Seventy-seven of the best junior golfers in Mississippi and Louisiana converged on Beau Pr Country Club for the 2005 Westfield Junior PGA Gulf States Section Championship.

Besides the tough pin placements, the only thing these young golfers ages 10-18 had to deal with was the heat, which didn’t seem to phase 17-year-old Patrick Murphy of New Orleans.

Murphy, who started on No. 10, had five birdies en route to a solid 3-under-par 69 and a three-shot lead over Robert Plucienski of nearby Slidell, La., in the boys 16-18 age division.

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&uot;A lot of luck,&uot; Murphy said. &uot;I was hitting the ball very well. I missed a couple of greens. My putting was real good. I made the putts I needed to all day.

That and his short game were keys on two tough holes, first on the treacherous par-4 15th, where many of the competitors were struggling just to leave that hole with a par, and then the par-3 4th hole.

&uot;On 15, I had a lob wedge from 90 yards and it hit close to the hole and it bounced to about 12 feet,&uot; said Murphy, who made the putt for birdie. &uot;On No. 4 I hit a 6-iron to about 35 feet. I guess I hit the right putt. It went in.&uot;

Murphy also birdied 13 and 18 and then birdied No. 6. He also had bogeys on No. 11 and then on his final hole, No. 9.

That birdie on 18 was almost a rare eagle-3 as his third shot stopped just a few inches from the hole.

Plucienski, 16, had three birdies and three bogeys in his round of even-par 72.

&uot;I just tried to keep it in play,&uot; Plucienski said. &uot;I didn’t try to be too greedy or too aggressive. I just tried to get it on the green and close to the pin. I would’ve liked to make a couple of more birdies, but they wouldn’t drop in. The way I see it, I could’ve shot a lot better.&uot;

Surprisingly, none of competitors from Natchez in the boys 16-18 age group are in contention. Matthew Hall had the low round among the local golfers with a 77. Jordan Farmer and Jake Kaiser each had rounds of 79. Cole Bradford had an 81.

In the girls 16-18 division, 17-year-old Nicole Crochet of Harahan, La. shot an opening-round 79 and has a two-shot lead over Amanda McDonald of Ball, La.

Mary Kate Byrne of Natchez had a chance to be in serious contention if not for three bad holes that resulted in a round of 88.

After she bogeyed 15, Byrne had a solid par on the difficult par-3 16th. Her birdie putt on 17 just missed to the right of the cup and she had to settle for a par. She finished with a good up-and-down for par on 18 after her third shot bounced off just off the back of the green.

It appeared that 13-year-old Tyler Ledet of Woodworth, La. would have the lead all by himself in the boys 13-15 division with a 75, but 15-year-old David Griffin on Slidell, playing in the next-to-last group of the day, also shot a 75.

Griffin’s round was adventurous at first and exciting at the end.

&uot;It was up and down,&uot; Griffin said. &uot;I made six bogeys in a row on 5 through 10. But I made a few birdies down the stretch. I didn’t hit my irons that great, but I putted good today. The greens were rolling fast and true.&uot;

Griffin shot a 2-under 34 on the back nine that included birdies on 11, 12 and 18 and a bogey on the par-5 10th.

In the girls 13-15 age group, 14-year-old Heather Lott of Baton Rouge, La. shot an 82 to take a big lead over Taylor Griffin of Walker, La.

&uot;I struck the ball well and I putted well. But I couldn’t chip or pitch,&uot; Lott said. &uot;Otherwise I would’ve shot in the 70s. I had a birdie on No. 1 and five bogeys.&uot;

Myles Lewis of Metairie, La. leads the boys 10-12 age group (nine holes each day) after shooting a 37 on the back nine.

Ellie Chai, also from Metairie, leads the girls 10-12 age group (nine holes each day).