LAWRENCE, Kan. – Even though wind gusts were as strong as 20 mph at Alvamar Country Club on Wednesday, Andrew Beckler felt right at home.
“This is just another day for me,” said Beckler, a native of Topeka, Kan.
Beckler backed up that statement at the AJGA’s Under Armour/Gary Woodland Championship with a second-round, 1-under 71. It was the lowest score of any player in the second round, and is the only sub-par score to have been posted at this event.
Beckler didn’t even have to adjust his strategy to keep it in play on Wednesday. He still pulled driver when he needed it, he just knows to keep shots as low to the ground as possible. Opening birdies also helped set the pace. Beckler is 4 over for 36 holes, and only trails leader Koichiro Ishika by two shots.
It seems appropriate that Beckler is in the mix in this tournament considering that he and Woodland grew up in the same town and both belong to Topeka Country Club. Beckler sees the PGA Tour player there often but has never played with him. Winning Woodland’s namesake tournament would be a good opening line for Beckler should the opportunity present itself down the road.
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MIDWEST CHARM: Ariadna Fonseca likes the charm this Midwest college town has to offer. The Venezuelan could see herself in Lawrence someday soon, at the coffee shops and quirky bookstores that attract heavy foot traffic downtown. And if she can figure out how to score at Alvamar, Lawrence could be the full package.
Fonseca, a 16-year-old who moved to the U.S. with her family a year ago and attends the Lee Westwood Golf School in Windermere, Fla., tacked the Under Armour/Woodland onto a campus visit to the University of Kansas this week. Fonseca struggled with Alvamar’s greens on Wednesday on her way to a 9-over 81. At 14-over 158, Fonseca is tied for sixth in the girls field.
“They make you double think,” she said. As she noted, any player who has to balance challenging Alvamar every day – in a strong Kansas wind, no less – should improve in no time.
This week, Fonseca has discovered how different the Midwest is from her home of Venezuela. There are no seasons there, few golf courses and hardly any junior golf tournaments.
“Opportunities and quality of life are so much better here,” Fonseca said.
Fonseca is one of three international players dotting the top of the girls leaderboard at this event. Eight countries are represented by the 96-player field at Alvamar, but Japan is perhaps the most notable. Himawari Ogura from Koutou, Japan leads the girls division after two rounds and Koichiro Ishika of Kakogawa, Japan leads the boys division. A third player in the Japanese caravan, Kento Nakai of Nishitokyo, is T-13 among boys.
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GROWING THE GAME IN COLOMBIA: Thanks to a day of better ballstriking and a few more made putts, Cynthia Diaz was able to make up ground Wednesday on leader Ogura. Diaz’s second-round 3-over 75 included two birdies at Nos. 11 and 12. It was the second-lowest score on the girls leaderboard, next to Megan Rachey’s 2-over 74 (which carried Rachey to solo third).
For Diaz, the Under Armour/Woodland is the second stop on a U.S. golf trip that will also include the AJGA KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior Open in Rogers, Ark., next week. After that, Diaz heads across the pond to play golf the week before the Ricoh Women’s British Open, then will stay to watch the tournament.
Diaz doesn’t have roots in the U.S., but makes frequent trips here to play golf. Golf in Colombia is on the rise because of players like her. The 16-year-old looks up to Mariajo Uribe, an LPGA Tour player who hailed from Bucaramonga, which is also Diaz’s hometown. Diaz uses Uribe, who also played collegiatley at UCLA, as a role model, and speaks with her occassionally.
When she graduates high school in 2015, Diaz hopes to play on a college scholarship in the U.S., but it won’t be UCLA. Diaz has been attracted to Midwest schools like Wichita State, Kansas and UMKC. Diaz might one day help spread the word about golf in her native country, too.
“It’s starting to bring coaches to Colombia so we have more opportunities,” Diaz said.
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WEATHER FORECAST: Early week at the Under Armour/Woodland was plagued by stronger than average Kansas winds. It’s what kept scoring high through the first two rounds. The weather forecast shows thunderstorms on the horizon for Thursday’s final round, which prompted tournament directors to rearrange the tee sheet.
Players will play in foursomes instead of the standard threesomes on Thursday. The final round also will feature a double-tee start, beginning at 7:30 with 11-minute intervals between groups.
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SHORT SHOTS: Caleb Haight, the first-round leader in the boys division, returned a 9-over 77 on Wednesday. Still, Haight, of Wichita, Kan., is only five shots off leader Koichiro Ishika’s pace. . . . The pace around Alvamar was quick on Wednesday. The final group came off the course in roughtly four hours and 15 minutes, which is three minutes quicker than the AJGA’s expected pace around Alvamar. . . . There are 24 Kansans in the field, and four are within the top 10 on the boys leaderboard. Emma Whitaker, of Wichita, Kan., is the top Kansas player on the girls leaderboard at T-10.