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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Casie Cathrea of Livermore, Calif., chips onto the 17th green Wednesday at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.
Junior PGA Notebook

Prodigy experiences highs, lows

– Brent Brooks wasn’t trying to be prescient, as he watched his daughter Sierra roll putts across the practice green Tuesday afternoon. It just worked out that way.

“It’s either gonna be her week or not,” he said.

So far it’s been both.

Brooks, a golfing prodigy who’s 14 now but was just 8 the first time she played in the Calloway Golf Junior World Cup Championship, wound up on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays of the Day on Tuesday after holing out a birdie from the bunker on 18. Then she eagled from the fairway on 13 in her second round Wednesday morning.

The bad news was, the birdie on 18 Tuesday was a spectacular finish to a tough day in which Brooks shot 81. Wednesday, she bounced back a bit, shooting 73, 1-over.

All of which made it even tougher on her dad, who played collegiate golf at North Florida and also professionally for a time.

“It’s so much easier to play this game, absolutely,” he said.

Tough field

If this were boxing, Sycamore Hills would be taking a standing eight count by now.

Fifteen boys and eight girls shot under par in the first round of the Junior PGA Championship, and the respective course records were both tied. J.B. Williams of Danville, Ky., shot a 7-under 65 on the boys side, and Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand tied her own course record with a 6-under 66.

By the end of the girls’ round Wednesday, Jutanugarn led at 8-under for the tournament, and seven other girls were under par. And the consensus was that’s due more to the strength of the field than the golf course’s vulnerability.

“I think there’s a lot of good players out here, so it’s definitely possible for the winner to be quite a few under,” said Casey Donaldson, who shot 1-under 71 in round one, before putting up a 2-under 70 in round two.

“I think it sets up really well. If you get a couple bogeys, you can usually get that back. And so if you don’t make a lot of mistakes, it’s very easy to go low.”

Added incentive

Chris Childress isn’t surprised at all by the scores the golfers are putting up this week. There is some added incentive, after all.

“All the boys and girls are on site trying to make the junior Ryder Cup team,” said Childress, the PGA of America’s junior golf manager. “The winner and runner-up are gonna come out of this field. There’ll be three captain’s picks, boys and girls, come out of this field, and there’ll be one player that comes off the 12-month cycle point list, which will be finalized at the end of this event.”

Little wonder that the field is as strong as it is.

“There’s a number of events going on in the country right now, but all the top boys and girls are here,” Childress said. “The kids with the strongest games in America, they’re in Fort Wayne. They’re on site, competing here right now.”