June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

DeForest logs solid opening day

WESTFIELD CENTER — It’s not hard to hit out of the woods when you’re DeForest.

Or the sand, or into the wind, for that matter.

Chris DeForest, who played in his first Westfield Junior PGA Championship in 2003, dealt with all the elements Wednesday and leads the field by three shots after the first day of action.

Playing Westfield Group Country Club’s South Course for the sixth time competitively — he played in the Junior Ryder Cup in 2004 — DeForest blistered the back nine with a 31 and finished the afternoon with a 6-under-par 65, ahead of Connor Driscoll.

Brooke Beeler, of Butler, Ill., holds the lead for the girls at even par.

“I came in with a strategy and stuck to it,” said DeForest, whose highest Westfield finish was 10th in 2004. “I just needed to stay calm. I had a couple of hiccups, but stuck to it.”

The University of Illinois recruit ended his day the same way he started it by sinking a 30-foot putt that broke right to left.

Starting off on the back, DeForest put an eagle up on 10 and then followed with birdies on 14, 15 and 18 to make the turn at 5-under.

His front side saw birdies at No. 3 and 9 with his only bogey coming at the No. 1 handicap seventh hole.

His shot of the round, however, came on the par 4, 415-yard eighth. On a hill and under a tree, DeForest had to take a horrible stance, but bulleted an 8-iron right in front of the green and two-putted for par.

“You learn the breaks of the green and where to play it. You learn where to miss it,” he said. “The most important thing is to be comfortable. The birdies are going to come. I always make some bad decisions out here. This time I just tried to eliminate the mistakes, but I’m real comfortable here.

“This is a marathon. The person that hits the ball and putts well, while eliminating the mistakes wins this.”

Beeler was efficient, to say the least. The runner-up in the Callaway Series at Westbrook C.C in Mansfield last week, Beeler carded 16 pars to stay a shot ahead of Katie Conway and Cheyenne Woods and two shots ahead of a group that includes Kimberly Kim and Cassandra Blaney.

“My putting was solid all day, I only had 29 putts,” Beeler said. “I was really happy with (the round) other than missing two 6-foot putts on the back nine.”

Beeler highlighted her round with a chip-in on the 158-yard, par 3, No. 14 for birdie. She left her approach shot short and was able to catch the ball just right off the face of her club before watching it drop in.

Last year’s girls champion, Brittany Altomare, sits five shots off the lead with 13 pars in the bag.

The day was a little more adventurous for 2006 champion and ‘05 runner-up Joe Monte.

The Georgia Southern recruit made the turn at 2-under, but couldn’t find it on the back nine to finish at even.

A double bogey on 11 offset his pars as the Chantilly, Va., resident found the greens difficult to read once the winds dried the course up. That caused Monte to lip out four times on holes 10-18.

“The greens were a lot faster toward the end than they were when we started,” Monte said. “It’s unfortunate because a lot of it was the time of day. I just have to play solid the next three rounds.”

The second round begins today at 7:30 a.m.