CELEBRATION, Fla. – Celebration Golf Club played tough Saturday during the first round of the Golfweek East Coast Junior Invitational.
Just three players – Yueer Cindy Feng, Cheyenne Knight and Callahan Elzey – were under par in Round 1 as a mix of tough pin placements and tricky greens gave players fits.
The shortage of low numbers means no player will enter Sunday’s final round with a safe lead. Feng leads Knight by two shots on the girls side while Elzey has a one-stroke advantage on a trio of players at even par – Zachary Healy, Will Long and Samuel Uhland – in the boys division.
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TRUSLOW’S BIG MOVE: Austen Truslow, No. 83 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings, made quite the impact a year ago as a sophomore for Spruce Creek High in Port Orange, Fla., helping the Hawks to a second-place team finish at the Class 2A state tournament.
But Truslow has since found a new home, transferring to Lake Mary Prep for his junior year. It’s been a different look for Truslow, who spends the first half of his day in school at Lake Mary Prep and the second half at the Mike Bender Elite Golf Academy.
“I’ve been given a little more time to work on what I need to on the golf course with a slightly more adjustable schedule,” Truslow said. “And the education has been great, so I think it’s been a very productive move so far.”
Truslow has been working with Bender for about six years, but just recently decided to make the move to Lake Mary Prep, which also welcomed transfer Sierra Brooks from Circle Christian this year. Shun Yat Hak, one of the top recruits in the country last year, played at Lake Mary Prep and is currently a freshman at Georgia Tech.
“I decided now is probably a good time to get my swing dialed in and get the system in check before I go out to college and not see Mike for another four years probably,” Truslow said.
Truslow, a native of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., opened up play at Celebration Golf Club with an opening-round, 1-over 73. He’s tied for fifth, two shots behind leader Callahan Elzey, who finished as the only boy under par after firing a 1-under 71.
“I’m in contention so I’m happy with that,” said Truslow, who bogeyed two of his final three holes during the first round. “I haven’t been in contention in a while.”
Truslow’s last victory came at the Maine Junior Amateur on Aug. 2. Truslow spends the summers in Maine and has won the last two Maine Junior Amateurs. He doesn’t play many of the bigger junior tournaments during the summer because he hasn’t earned enough exemptions yet.
Truslow hopes the switch in schools will eventually change that.
“My social life was a little bit better and I miss a lot of my good friends at Spruce Creek,” Truslow said. “But there’s always going to be pros and cons, but this has been a good move in a lot of ways.”
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SOUTH FOR THE WINTER: Brian Carlson is a native of New Haven, Conn., so it’s safe to say he isn’t used to playing golf in Florida.
“I play here [in Florida] maybe one or two times a year,” said Carlson, who is ranked No. 94 by Golfweek. “But it’s fun to come down to Florida to play golf. Actually, it’s fun coming down to Florida, period.”
Playing against a field consisting primarily of Floridians, Carlson is making this trip count. He shot 2-over 74 at Celebration Golf Club and is just three shots behind leader Callahan Elzey.
“It’s hard to get used to the grain on the green down here,” Carlson said.
Carlson had a breakout summer season in which he won the Killington Junior in June, and finished second at the Genesis Junior Open and T-10 at the AJGA Philadelphia Junior in August.
“This year I’ve been playing great golf,” Carlson said. “I’ve been shooting a lot of under-par rounds.”
Carlson will return to Florida next month for the Doral-Publix Junior Golf Classic.
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SOLID START FOR FENG: Just three players shot par or better during Saturday’s first round. One of those was Yueer Cindy Feng, No. 24 in Golfweek’s rankings, who is atop the girls leaderboard.
Feng, who finished with a 3-under 69, turned in the best round of the day – for girls and boys.
“I was putting well,” Feng said. “It’s one of those things where you just get on a roll and you just make everything.”
Playing in the first group of the morning alongside Katelyn Dambaugh (No. 16), Feng began her round with a birdie at the 342-yard, par-4 No. 1 hole. She had four birdies in the first six holes, including birdies on each of the first two par 5s. She shot 1 over on a tougher back nine.
“I think I actually hit [my approaches] closer on the back nine,” Feng said. “But it’s a good day [and] a good start.”
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STATE TITLE MOMENTUM: Simin Feng, ranked No. 42, shot an even-par 72 at Celebration Golf Club on Saturday, just three days after capturing am individual state title.
Feng, who plays high school golf for Windermere Prep, defeated Lake Mary Prep’s Sierra Brooks (No. 27) in a playoff to win the Class 1A individual crown on Oct. 31. It is the first individual state title for Feng, who also helped Windermere Prep capture a third straight team championship.
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SHORT SHOTS: One of the best rounds of the day came from Samuel Uhland. Uhland, who is from Jacksonville, Fla., was 2 under after 13 holes before bogeys on two of his last four holes left him with an even-par 72. . . . While Floridians dominate the field, seven of the top 10 golfers are from out of state. That includes a pair of players from the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, S.C. – Saravit Kerdsinchni and Toks Pedro, who each shot 1-over 73.