Travis Vick, Cole Hammer lead Junior Amateurs' assault on Honors record

The leaders after the first day of stroke play in the 69th U.S. Junior Amateur golf tournament vow that The Honors Course is not an easy track to navigate a golf ball around.

But their scores indicate otherwise.

Travis Vick not only was the first-day leader but set a course record Monday by shooting an 8-under-par 64. Vick's round concluded in the early afternoon, not long after fellow Houstonian Cole Hammer had tied the previous record of 65 set by Seth Reeves in the 2014 Southern Amateur.

Korean Won Jun Lee, who currently lives in Tampa, Fla., had a chance to tie the course record a few minutes before Hammer did. However, he missed a short par putt on his finishing hole and tapped in for a 66.

"The golf course definitely is not an easy course," Lee said of the 7,326-yard layout. "You've got to hit it in the fairway. The greens are really quick. I tried to give myself uphill putts as much as possible. That was a downhill putt. I hit it too soft and left it three inches short."

Lee is one shot ahead of fourth-place Wei Wei Gao, a golfer from the Philippines who had a hole-in-one on the 220-yard par-3 No. 3.

Thanks in large part to an hour-and-37-minute weather delay, play was suspended at 8:51 p.m. The few left to finish will do so this morning starting at 7:15. Therefore, today's tee times for the second day of stroke play for the 156 participants will be delayed 15 minutes.

The top 64 after today's round will advance to match play starting Wednesday. The tournament concludes Saturday with a head-to-head competition set for 36 holes.

Vick said the practice rounds he played over the weekend before the competition began helped him shoot his low score, which also tied the second-lowest stroke-play round at a U.S. Junior Amateur. Gavin Hall, who will be a senior at the University of Texas next season, had the low round when he shot a course-record 62 at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada, Mich., in 2010.

"These greens have a ton of undulation and they're fast," Vick said. "I'm glad I came out here early. Detecting that was so beneficial."

Vick was 15 when he finished one stroke behind medalist Brandon Mancheno of Jacksonville, Fla., in last year's tournament at Colleton River Plantation Club at Bluffton, S.C. The medalist honor goes to the leader after the two days of stroke play.

Inspired to improve, Vick played bogey-free Monday, but not without a few par saves, especially on Nos. 10 and 13. After coming up short of the green with his approach shot on the 447-yard par-4 10th, he hit his next shot 15 feet past the hole but made the putt coming back. He got up and down off the back slope on No. 13.

Vick birdied five of the other seven holes on the back to complete a 31 coming in. His 3-foot putt from below the hole on No. 18 gave him the record.

"The U.S. Junior Amateur definitely means something special to me," Vick said. "To come out here and shoot such a low number is something I'll never forget."

Hammer could just as easily own the course record had his putts on Nos. 17 and 18 dropped. He lipped out on 17 and had the proper pace on his 20-foot downhiller on 18, but it slid to the right.

"Both were good putts," Hammer said. "But I'm not going to complain though."

Hammer's day began with birdies on the first three holes and, like Vick, he also had a bogey-free round. Likewise he said getting to practice on the course over the weekend was invaluable to his round.

"This is not a short course," said Hammer, who advanced to the match-play round of 32 in this tournament last year. "And you have to manage your game. There were a few spots out there where it would be tough to get up and down. This is one of the best courses I've played. Thankfully I'm a few yards longer than I was last year. There's not one hole out here I don't like."

Lee, a U.S. Junior Am semifinalist a year ago, began his round on No. 10. In between the bogeys on his first and last holes, he hit all 16 greens in regulation.

After making the turn at even-par, Lee made birdies on Nos. 1 through 7. He said he had previously never made more than four birdies in succession in his career.

"I really like this tournament," Lee said. "It's one of the biggest tournaments. I get to compete against all the good players, and that makes me a better player."