Beaufort News

Working vacation off to good start for Connelly at Berkeley Hall

Austin Connelly and his family drove 18 hours last week to Bluffton from Texas, the first leg of an East Coast roadtrip mixed with some competitive golf.

The 14-year-old will try to start the journey with a victory today at Berkeley Hall Club's South Course. He is 4-under par and leads the boys division by a shot entering the final round of the American Junior Golf Association's Junior All-Star at Hilton Head.

"I just wanted to come out and try to make pars and be patient and try to let the birdies come," said Connelly, who carded a second-round 69 on Wednesday. "And they did."

Bella Skinner matched her first-round 71 to open a six-shot lead in the girls division. She is the only girl under par.

Skinner, 15, said she carried over good feelings from her practice rounds.

"My hitting has been very consistent and very reliable," said Skinner, a rising sophomore. "I haven't been afraid of any shots. I've just been going for everything."

Skinner -- who has used an umbrella and a push cart this week to try to stay cool -- said she hasn't been in position to sleep on a lead before, but that she would try to stay calm today. Her best finish this year was earlier this month at the Junior All-Star event in Ringgold, Ga., where she finished third in her home state after a final-round 67.

"It's very exciting," she said. "And I just want to keep going with it."

First-round boys leader Pablo Andres Torres followed an opening round 67 with a 74 and trails Connelly by a shot.

The best round of the tournament to this point belongs to Dong-Jun Kim, a North Carolina resident who fired a 65 on Wednesday. The round was Kim's personal low, besting a 68 he shot at Pinehurst, and vaulted him into a tie for third, two shots off the pace.

Kim, playing in the first group off at 7:30 a.m., thought a delay on the 10th tee might throw his rhythm. But he closed with five birdies on the back nine. A bogey at 18 kept the round from being lower.

"I had a streak going on," said Kim, who bounced back from a first-round 77. "I never gave up today."

He'll chase Connelly, who played his final six holes 3 under to grab the lead. Connelly said he will keep the same approach today, trying to grind out pars and sneak in a few birdies along the way.

Connelly's family is traveling the East Coast in their 45-foot tour bus. He played here Sunday in the AJGA national qualifier and will compete next week at the Junior All-Star in State College, Pa.

Connelly's family visits his grandparents in Canada every year, and they decided to include some golf this year. His final stop will be at the Canadian Junior.

In the fall, Connelly will attend a high school that allows him to take all advanced placement courses and finish the day by 1 p.m. so he can be on the golf course in the afternoon. Connelly said he would like to add some weight, because his slight frame leads to mid-to-long irons into a lot of greens.

"I'm just trying to sharpen up my short game now and make it so when I do miss greens, I can still save par," he said. "And when I do give myself birdie opportunities, try and make them."

AJGA Junior All-Star at Hilton Head

Wednesday, at Berkeley Hall Club (South Course), Bluffton; Par: Boys: 36-36--72; Girls: 36-36--72; Yardage: Boys: 6,718; Girls: 5,885

Second Round

Boys

Leaders

Austin Connelly 71-69--140

Pablo Andres Torres 67-74--141

Dong-Jun Kim 77-65--142

David Mackey 70-72--142

Matthew Plunkett 71-71--142

Austen Truslow 74-69--143

Philip Barbaree 72-71--143

Luis Enriquez 70-75--145

William Gordon 72-73--145

Osama Khan 72-73--145

Anthony Perrino 73-72--145

Jordan Batchelor 75-70--145

Local players

Bryson Nimmer 71-78--149

Saravit Kerdsinchai 77-78--155

Will Miles 84-82--166

Girls

Leaders

Isabella Skinner 71-71--142

Laura Sojo 72-76--148

Lauren Stephenson 76-74--150

Kelly Whaley 73-78--151

Tiffany Kuroki 77-75--152

Sara Diaz 72-81--153

Ailin Li 76-78--154

Samantha Spencer 81-74--155

Diana Gonzalez 79-76--155

Lauren Johnson 79-78--157

Jack Comstock, of Jacksonville, Fla., chips on No. 18 of the Berkeley Hall Club's South Course during Wednesday's second round of the AJGA Junior All-Star at Hilton Head. Comstock shot a 76 in the second round and is tied for 14th.

Tiffany Kuroki, of West Covina, Calif., tees off on No. 1 at Berkeley Hall Club's South Course during Wednesday's second round of the AJGA Junior All-Star at Hilton Head. She is in fifth place, 10 shots behind the leader.

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