By Austin Johnson
The 2018 Girls Junior PGA Championship is taking place at Kearney Hills Golf Links in Lexington, Kentucky. The Girls Junior PGA Championship is the first of two PGA championships hosted in the bluegrass in July, the other being the Barbasol Championship.
2018 Girls Junior PGA Championship is a 72-hole, stroke-play Championship, with 18 holes daily. After the first 36 holes the 70 competitors with the best scores will continue, while the rest are eliminated. In the event of a tie after 72 holes, there will be a hole-by-hole playoff.
Six Kentuckians played in the first round of the Girls Junior PGA Championship: Taylor Edlin (Sacred Heart Academy), Laney Frye (Lexington Christian Academy), Mallory Lovell (Scott County HS), Lizzie Loy (Russell County HS), Rylea Marcum (Scott County HS), Madison Smith (Union, KY). After the 36 hole cut, only Loy and Marcum remain. Loy entering the third round is even with par and Marcum is four over par.
Monday July 9, 2018 was a day to remember for Alexa Melton as the 17-year-old from Covina, CA, shot 9 under par (63) during the first round, which set the lowest 18-hole score in the Championship’s 43-year history in addition to her personal record.
Making her first appearance in the Championship, Melton tore through her first nine holes (Kearney Hill’s back nine) with five birdies. She exceeded this pace through the first three holes on her back nine with a birdie and eagle on holes 1 and 3 to reach 8-under through 12 holes.
“There are many ups and downs in golf so you can’t get too high about it or too excited for it, but I’m feeling pretty good about [my round],” said Melton, who topped her personal best by one stroke, “I was sticking the ball close, within six feet frequently, and I captured those putts.”
Rose Zhang from Irvine, CA, won the 2017 Girls Junior PGA Championship and is in Kentucky to defend her title. Zhang, then 14 years old, set the record for lowest 54 holes (200) and tied the records for lowest second round score (65), lowest third-round score (66), and lowest 72 holes (268). Zhang, now 15 years old, is tied for fifth place going into the third round with a score nine under par and four strokes behind the leader, Yealimi Noh from Concord, CA.
“I’ve gained probably 20 yards since last summer,” said Noh, who has birdied seven of the eight par 5s through two rounds, “hopefully I can take advantage of the par 5s the rest of the week.”