Trio finish one shot off Sunset Ridge course record

Northfield, Ill. (July 31, 2018) – Three players share the lead after shooting 8-under 63s in Tuesday's first round of the 2018 Western Amateur at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield, Illinois.

Lloyd Jefferson Go of Cebu, Philippines, Spencer Ralston of Gainesville, Georgia, and Matthew Walker of Ottumwa, Iowa, all set the pace and came within one stroke of the competitive course record on the opening day.

A two-time Big East Player of the Year while at Seton Hall, Go made two birdies and an eagle on the three par 5s in a bogey-free round. A senior at Iowa, Walker finished with eight birdies and no bogeys.

Ralston, a junior at Georgia, was even through six before an eagle at the par-5 seventh helped him turn at 2 under. He got it going on the second nine with four birdies and an eagle at the par-5 16th.

“I hit the ball in the fairway, which I kind of struggled with, but a hot putter can make up for a lot,” Ralston said. “I gave myself a lot of opportunities, and I was rolling it well.”

After a birdie at the par-5 16th, Go saved par on the par-3 17th with a two-putt from roughly 50 feet above the hole. He then made par from the back fringe on No. 18.

“Coming into this tournament, I really didn’t expect anything,” Go said. “I had been struggling, so I came out here trying to have fun. Hopefully, I keep it up over the next few days.”

Four players are tied for fourth at 7 under.

John Augenstein, of Owensboro, Kentucky, Fernando Barco, of Lima, Peru, Chandler Phillips, of Huntsville, Texas, and Shuai Ming Wong, of Hong Kong, China, all are one stroke back after posting 64s.

Phillips, a senior at Texas A&M, eagled two par 5s and birdied the other. Barco’s bogey-free round was highlighted by an eagle at the par-4 18th — his ninth hole of round — and five birdies. A junior at Vanderbilt, Augenstein made seven birdies, including five on the back. Wong got as low as 8 under through 13 holes before making two bogeys to finish one off the lead.

“I think I definitely left some out there,” said Wong, a freshman at Southern Methodist. “I really was feeling it out there today. I had a couple of setbacks, but that’s part of golf.”

In a group at 6 under are Cole Hammer, of Houston, Texas, Isaac Merry, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Sam Stevens, of Wichita, Kansas.

Hammer carded six birdies and no bogeys in what he called a “stress free” round. Merry started with two bogeys at his first two holes before rallying with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 3-4. He added six more birdies to post his number. Stevens closed out his day with birdies on his final two holes.

“I made a lot of good putts and really hit it well,” said Hammer, a freshman at Texas. “I put myself in good position a lot.”

In his last tournament as an amateur before turning professional, Merry is hoping to keep up his good form. He played college golf at New Mexico State.

“I was excited to come here,” he said.

Min Woo Lee, of Perth, Australia, headlined the four returning players who qualified for last year’s Sweet 16 at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois, with a 67. Brad Dalke, of Norman, Oklahoma, and John Pak, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, each shot 70. Will Gordon, of Davidson, North Carolina, finished with 73.

A total of 83 players in the 156-player field shot 1 under or better, with another 21 at even par.