On Tuesday morning, 96 golfers, both boys and girls ages 13-19, took to the golf course at Blue Hills Country Club for the opening round of the Lockton Kansas City Junior, an American Junior Golf Association-sanctioned tournament.
Talent from all over the country gathered on the course for the opening round, including Alejandro De Zavala, who has verbally commited to Arizona, Hayden White (verbal to LSU) and Britta Snyder (verbal to Baylor).
But it was local talent from the Kansas City area crowding the top of the boys’ leaderboard on Tuesday. Ryan Bender, who hails from Overland Park and has verbally commited to Kansas State for 2018, was on top after shooting 2-under par.
“I played very solid today, pretty much a stress-free round,” Bender said. “It is great to be atop the leaderboard, but there is still lots of golf to be played. Hopefully I can post another good round tomorrow.”
A rising senior at Blue Valley North High School, Bender said it’s great to play at a tournament like this in his hometown and said he will enjoy sleeping in his own bed instead of a hotel.
Bender will tee off on the 10th hole to start the second round Wednesday morning at 9:40 a.m. He’s grouped with Bryce Hammer (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Santiago Varela (Mexico City) and Lucas Scherf (Grinnell, Iowa).
Sitting two strokes behind Bender is Cade Uhlenhake, also from Overland Park. Uhlenhake, 16, played relaxed on Tuesday, crediting playing in his hometown as he shot an even-par 72 in the opening round.
“I thought I played pretty well,” Uhlenhake said. “My putting was good and my ball striking was awesome and a 72 is pretty good.
“Two strokes is not that much, it’s one hole, really, and anything can happen.”
Uhlenhake’s group, which consists of Jake Livermore (Frisco, Texas), Zachary Bailey (Germantown, Tenn.) and Kyle Peterson (Bixby, Okla.), will tee off from the first hole Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.
“I need hit my drives in the middle of the fairways,” Uhlenhake said. “I only hit six fairways today, so hopefully I can hit more (tomorrow).”
Jake Propeck and his younger sister, Megan Propeck, are from nearby Leawood. Jake shot a 4-over par 76 and is tied for 20th after the opening round, while Megan sits tied for eighth after coming in at 3-over 75.
“I felt I played OK today,” Jake Propeck said. “I hit the ball really well, but I just could not making any putts. Hopefully I can go out and roll some in tomorrow.”
Jake is entering his senior year of high school at Rockhurst and Megan will be a freshman at Notre Dame De Sion.
“It’s really fun playing (with my brother) because you get off the course and you’re like, ‘How’s he doing?’” Megan Propeck said. “It’s a team effort, almost. It’s separate, but at the same time we are both rooting for each other the entire time.”
Stifan He, of Shanghai, and Reese Guzman of Kahului, Hawaii, are tied atop the girls’ leaderboard after shooting 2-under par. Julia Misemer, 13, from Overland Park, trails the leaders by four strokes.
The championship round will be played on Thursday.