Brandon Wu takes over lead at AJGA
Brandon Wu has had the lead once entering the final round of an American Junior Golf Association tournament.
That was a year ago, and it didn't end as well as the Danville, Calif., player would have liked.
"I wouldn't say I threw it away, but another kid or two played really well," said Wu, who placed third in the event at Pleasanton, Calif., last July.
He'll get another chance to follow through today in the closing round of the Bishops Gate Golf Academy Junior at Centennial Golf Club.
Wu, who is no relation to the Medford golfing family, shot a second consecutive 5-under-par 67 Wednesday for a 134 total and wrestled the lead from newly crowned course record holder Blake Abercrombie.
Abercrombie, who shot a 63 in Tuesday's opening round, managed a 72 and is one shot back. The Rocklin, Calif., resident and Wu will be in the final group today with Derek Ackerman, from Half Moon Bay, Calif., who is 6 under following a 70.
The fifth-annual tournament for players 12-18 years old had a 36-hole cut. The top 54 boys and ties advanced.
Three local players made it to today. Josh Wu, of Medford, is tied for ninth at 1 under; Medford's Max Davis is 4 over; and Ashland's Matt Hedges is 5 over.
In the girls division, Medford's Kiana Oshiro is the lone local player in today's final round. She shot a 1-over 73 Wednesday and is tied for fourth, five shots behind leader Jessica Luo.
Luo, from San Jose, Calif., had the lowest round of the tournament for girls, shooting 67.
Brandon Wu began the day four shots behind Abercrombie but didn't feel the need to press.
"It definitely shows it's possible to go low," he said of Abercrombie's record round. "I just tried to play as aggressively as I felt was safe, pretty much stick to my game plan and hopefully make some putts. Seeing them drop was good."
Especially on the par 5s. The long-hitting senior-to-be is 8 under over two days on the longest holes, and that included an eagle on the second hole Wednesday.
Length is a strength of his, and it comes in handy at Centennial, he said.
Wu attends a boarding school, Deerfield (Mass.) Academy, and is pursuing a number of college options, headed by Stanford.
He got off to a fast start with the eagle, chipping in from 30 yards from tall grass left of the green. On the next hole, rated the most difficult on the course, he rolled in a 40-foot bomb for birdie.
"I was just trying to lag it close and put some good speed on it," he said. "The line was correct."
Wu was steady throughout. He added birdies on the remaining three par 5s and had only one hiccup, a three-putt bogey at No. 14.
"I just tried to hit greens, mostly to the middle of the greens," he said. "I didn't go after too many flags."
He'll try to improve on his best AJGA finish — that third place of a year ago, when he held a one-shot lead overnight.
"I'm just gonna stick to my game plan and try to play smart," he said.
Like everyone else, Abercrombie had to deal with rainy, breezy conditions, but he also had to try to back up that spectacular round from the day before, something that briefly crossed his mind.
"In the beginning, yeah, a little bit," he said. "But after I hit my first tee shot, I was fine."
He wasn't displeased with how he struck the ball. He hit an impressive 16 of 18 greens.
"I just didn't get any putts to fall," he said. "I had lot of birdie chances. I gave myself a chance to shoot a couple under par today, but it just wasn't there."
The San Diego State recruit — he'll enroll this fall — very nearly crafted a fantastic finish.
At 16, he missed a 5-foot birdie putt.
At 17, a par 3, his tee shot hit 10 feet in front of the hole, bounced into the flagstick, dropped and spun around the cup for a near hole-in-one, then popped out inches away for an easy tap-in.
At 18, he hit a 6-iron from a fairway bunker to about 20 feet, and barely missed the birdie putt below the hole.
"Tomorrow, I'm just gonna try to hit the driver a little better," said Abercrombie, "and give myself more chances to make better approach shots into the greens. But golf is all about the putter. If you putt well, you're going to make a lot of birdies. If you don't, you're going to shoot even par."
Josh Wu played in the morning session and improved by three shots over his first round with a 70.
"It was better than yesterday," said the St. Mary's junior-to-be. "I still missed a couple putts, but I can't complain about shooting 2 under out here. The pins were a little tough today. It was just kind of wet out there. Usually, it's really dry around here and you can fly the ball."
Wu got off to a hot start, birdieing the second, third and fourth holes. He had two bogeys — one a water-hazard 4 — and a birdie the rest of the way.
Despite a light drizzle, he headed to the putting green for practice immediately after his round.
"Tomorrow I should be able to hopefully go get a low number and at least try to get myself in the top 10 or top five," he said.
On the girls side, Luo recorded a clean round of five birdies and no bogeys.
The girls started on No. 10, and Luo opened with a birdie, splitting the fairway with her 3-wood tee shot and avoiding dangerous water on the right.
"It was the most exciting shot for me today since it was my starting hole," she said. "It gave me good momentum for the day."
Luo is playing her fourth AJGA event and has yet to win.
"It (victory) would mean a lot," she said.
Similar to her first round, Oshiro, who will be a sophomore at North Medford, played the front nine in 3 over, then improved on her second nine. She made birdies at Nos. 2 and 5 and parred the other seven holes.
Meiqi Gao, of Shanghai, and Abigail Cantwell, of Scottsdale, Ariz., are tied for second at 143.
One shot back are Oshiro and two others.
Tee times today are from 7 to 9 a.m. on the first and 10th holes. Spectators are welcome.
Bishops Gate Junior at Centennial
BOYS TOP 10
1. Brandon Wu, Danville, Calif., 67-67—134
2. Blake Abercrombie, Rocklin, Calif., 63-72—135
3. Derek Ackerman, Half Moon Bay, Calif., 68-70—138
T4. Alexander Lee, Sacramento, Calif., 67-72—139
T4. Isaiah Salinda, San Francisco, 69-70—139
T4. Kaito Onishi, Irvine, Calif., 71-68—139
7. Zachary Smith, Pleasanton, Calif., 71-69—140
8. Chris Korte, Highlands Ranch, Colo., 71-70—141
T9. Josh Wu, Medford, 73-70—143
T9. Matt Heitel, Redwood City, Calif., 69-74—143
T9. Henry Cassriel, Orinda, Calif., 69-74—143
T27. Max Davis, Medford, 71-77—148
T31. Matt Hedges, Ashland, 75-74—149
MC. Jeremy Wu, Medford, 76-78—154
MC. Ben Quast, Ashland, 76-80—156
MC. Jake Quast, Ashland, 82-82—164
GIRLS TOP 10
1. Jessica Luo, San Jose, Calif., 72-67—139
T2. Abigail Cantwell, Scottsdale, Ariz., 71-72—143
T2. Meiqi Gao, Shanghai, 72-71—143
T4. Kiana Oshiro, Medford, 71-73—144
T4. Mami Yamamoto, Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., 69-75—144
T4. Alisha Lau, Richmond, British Columbia, 73-71—144
7. Janet Yeo, Los Angeles, 73-72—145
T8. Hannah Lee, Surrey, British Columbia, 74-74—148
T8. Cynthia Navis, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., 77-71—148
10. Beth Lillie, Fullerton, Calif., 74-75—149.
MC. Daniele Giles, Central Point, 83-78—161
* MC — missed cut.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org