Date: April 21, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

John shares Sage Valley lead

Victorian Cameron John has continued his fine form, sharing the lead after the opening round of the Sage Valley Junior Invitational in South Carolina.

John, the recently crowned Australian Junior champion, carded six birdies against a lone bogey in an opening five-under-par 67 to join world No.2 amateur Joaquin Niemann atop the leaderboard.

Japan’s Kaito Onishi is third at four under in an elite 54-man field, but highlighting the quality of the leaders’ rounds, there’s already a gap back to fourth at two under in the three-round tournament.

Min Woo Lee and Jack Trent are among those tied seventh at one under, while fellow Australians Karl Vilips (even) is also handy at T16, while Fred Lee (three over) will need to go low tomorrow to contend.

Niemann, who watched his good mate and fellow Chilean Toto Gana play in the Masters two weeks ago, is in his third trip to Sage Valley, while John was in just his second round having played just once in practice a day earlier.

But the Melburnian soon found his groove and hit 12 of 14 fairways.

John made birdies on three of the first seven holes before a bogey at the ninth, but gained strokes with another three birdies on the back nine.

“Ten is a reachable par five, so I was just like `all right, get birdie back here; regain some momentum’,” he told the Aiken Standard.

“That kind of went my way, so it was always easier to bounce back after making a quick birdie like that,” John said.

“Through the back nine, I just hit it really, really solid.”

John made a lengthy birdie putt on No.14 and birdied the following par five for his sixth birdie of the day to join Niemann in a tie for the top spot.

Lee’s round was far from that level of consistency, sadly including two double-bogeys in the first six holes.

But the Royal Fremantle ace hit back with an eagle on the par-five fourth and three other birdies to finish in red numbers.

Trent, a Sunshine Coast native whose family has moved to Nevada for his golf, scattered three bogeys among his four birdies in an impressive start.

Vilips, too, has his chances with four birdies, but a couple of late bogeys cost him a higher finish.