The R&A - Working for Golf

Pedro Lencart Silva wins the Junior Open at Kilmarnock (Barassie)

Pedro Lencart Silva posted a round of six-under-par 67 to seal a convincing win at the Junior Open at Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club today.

The 16 year-old started the round two strokes behind Valeria Pacheco but produced a fine performance in the final round to lift the title with an aggregate score of 214, five-under-par.

Pacheco made a slow start to her round and eventually signed for a one-over-par 74 to finish second on level par 219, one ahead of China’s Yifan Ji (72) who was the overnight leader after the first day.

South Korea’s Hyunkyung Park (75) was fourth on two-over 221, one ahead of American Garrett Barber (74) and Argentina’s Mateo Fernandez De Oliveira (75) in a tie for fifth.

The leading group took to the course during excellent conditions and a birdie on the first hole by Lencart Silva set the tone for the day.  The Miramar golf club member added another birdie at the fifth to reach the turn on two-under-par. 

A run of four birdies in five holes from the 12th was the difference in the end as at one stage Lencart Silva and Pacheco were only separated by one shot.

However, Lencart Silva played his best golf of the week by hitting 17 greens in regulation and converting his birdie opportunities to leave others with little chance of catching him.

The Junior Open title is Lencart Silva’s biggest win to date after he won the Finland Under-16 Championship last year.

“I played really well, hit 17 greens and made six birdies without any dropped shots. It was a really good round," said Lencart Silva. "I felt some nerves but I was trying to enjoy myself at the same time.

“I practised a lot of links shots into the wind before I came here. It’s a very important win for me, my biggest so far. I didn’t have great form coming into the week but I tried to focus and luckily my game together at the right time.

“I suppose it’s a Portuguese double! It’s perfect. Nobody really expected Portugal to win in the football and I’m not sure if anyone thought I could win here but we did it.”

Valeria Pacheco said she was happy with her performance despite losing out on the title. She said, “I still feel good even though I didn’t manage to win. It was a good result, especially with the way I started, which was a little crazy. I’m proud of the way I was able to come back and finished pretty well.

“To finish second is a good result. Pedro’s score in the final round was sensational. There are some things you simply can’t do anything about. I have no complaints, Pedro deserved to win. Overall it was a great week, I had a lot of fun. It was an amazing experience.”

Duncan Weir, Executive Director – Working for Golf, The R&A, added, “It has been a fabulous week and a great conclusion. We had 80 countries represented in the starting field of 143, a record entry. The transformation from the last time the Junior Open was played here at Kilmarnock (Barassie) in 2004 is clear to see; it’s bigger, better and stronger. In my experience, it’s the best Junior Open we’ve ever had.

“For the development of the game the Junior Open does two things. At the top end of the field it allows good young players an opportunity to compete against one another at a venue very close to The Open. It also enables us to connect with some of our smaller countries; it strengthens our link with all the national organisations affiliated with The R&A. The Junior Open is a combination of a successful championship and real golf development.”

Day 2 Recap

Puerto Rico’s Valeria Pacheco will take a one shot lead into the final round of the Junior Open Championship after carding a best of the day 71 at Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club.

Despite the easier conditions compared to the opening day along the Ayrshire coast, there were still only three scores under par at a venue previously used for Open Final Qualifying.

Pacheco’s two-under round was enough to edge the 16-year-old in front on a tightly grouped leaderboard. Added to her opening 74, Pacheco’s one-under 145 aggregate leads by one from South Korea’s Hyunkyung Park, who has been the model of consistency with two level par 73s for 146.

“I really enjoyed the course today, I just felt really comfortable,” said a delighted Pacheco after her round. “It was less windy and slightly warmer which definitely made scoring easier for me.”

The leader traded a birdie at the seventh with a bogey at the next to turn in level par 36. The plus two handicapper dipped under par for the first time with a further birdie at the par five 12th but the best was still to come when she eagled the 465-yard par five 16th.

“I hit my drive down the left side and into the rough but was able to hit a four-iron onto the green and made a good putt from 20 feet,” added Pacheco, feeling relaxed at the top of the leaderboard.

“I’m looking forward to the final round, we’ll see what happens.”

Park struggled off the tee towards the end of the front nine but kept her composure to remain competitive. The South Korean reached the turn in one-under 35, courtesy of three birdies against two bogeys. The back nine was less flamboyant with eight pars and just the one dropped shot at the 17th.

Barassie is a heathland, links style course where there is definitely a premium on accuracy, especially off the tee. Portugal’s Pedro Lencart Silva also struggled to find the fairways on occasion but he too found a way to stay in contention with a 74 to be two off the lead.

“I struggled badly off the tee but I played well otherwise and that kept my card going. I had to scramble today and thankfully I managed to make a few birdies. Conditions were definitely easier today, not as windy,” explained the 16-year-old, who plays his golf in Miramar in northern Portugal.  

Argentina’s Mateo Fernandez De Oliveira joined Lencart Silva in a share of third after carding a second round 73. The plus one handicapper’s round threatened to unravel after the turn when he started the back nine, double-bogey, bogey. However, he rallied well with three birdies in the last six holes.     

“It was a nice round apart from 10 and 11. I am happy the way I finished with three birdies in the last six holes. I started hitting the ball well and took advantage. The birdie at 18 was a bonus. I hit driver and pitching wedge into 10 feet and holed the putt,” said Fernandez De Oliveira.

First round leader Yifan Ji is also still in touch, despite a second round 76 dropping the Chinese player down the leaderboard, three off the pace and in a tie for fifth. Ji finds herself on the same 148 aggregate as her compatriot Guxin Chen (72) and American Garrett Barber, who shot a second consecutive 74.

Malaysian Ladies golfer Ashley Lau Jen Wen briefly held the early clubhouse lead after a second round 72 for a 149 total. Her round included an eagle three at the 12th and five birdies against four bogeys and one double-bogey at the seventh.

The 36-hole cut fell at 24-over-par with 81 players from the starting field of 143 progressing into tomorrow’s third and final round.

Live Scoring here.

Day 1 Recap

China’s Yifan Ji set the pace with a one-under-par 72 on the opening day of the Junior Open Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club where the constant breeze presented a tough but fair test for the 143 competitors.

 Ji was the only player who managed to break par in a round that contained five birdies and an eagle at the par five eighth. The coastal conditions meant Ji’s card also contained four bogeys and an untimely double bogey at the 16th.

 “The rough is difficult and the wind made the course very challenging, but it’s the same for everyone,” said Ji. “Unfortunately, I made a double bogey on 16th where I three-putted what should have been a straightforward hole. I find it more difficult to concentrate in the wind.”

 The 15-year-old made the perfect start with a birdie at the par five first but dropped three strokes in the next five holes. However, she responded well with an eagle at the 539-yard par five eighth.

 “That was a nice eagle. It was downwind and I hit the green in two with a six-iron and holed from 15 feet,” added the scratch golfer who turned in level par 36.

It was the start of a great run where Ji went on to record three consecutive birdies from the 10th before trading a bogey and a birdie at 13 and 14. Some of the shine was taken off the round with a seven at the 16th but the leader composed herself to close with two pars into the wind.

Ji is closely followed South Korea’s Hyunkyung Park, Portugal’s Pedro Lencart Silva and Denmark’s Josefine Egholm Hende, who all recorded level par 73s to share second in the 54-hole strokeplay event.

Park and Lencart Silva were among the earlier starters and made up ground on the back nine. Park enjoyed a flawless nine where the 16-year-old picked up birdies at the 12th and 16th, while Lencart Silva made birdies at the 11th and 16th but bogeyed the 14th. Hende was one of the afternoon finishers with two nines played in level par.

The chasing trio were closely followed by a quartet that all signed for one-over 74s at the former Final Open Qualifying venue that is hosting the Junior Open for the second time after it was last played at Barassie in 2004 when American Jordan Cox won.

Cox’s compatriot Garrett Barber was among the group tied for fifth alongside Argentina’s Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, Puerto Rico’s Valeria Pacheco and England’s Barclay Brown.     

A record 80 countries are represented this week with the field made up of emerging boy and girl junior golfers. Previous competitors at the Junior Open include the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Carly Booth and Paula Creamer. The inaugural Junior Open took place in 1994 and to date seven players have gone on to compete in The Open Championship.

Paul McGinley paid a visit to Barassie to spend time with some of the kids and to welcome the first Junior Open representative from Ghana, a place where the 2014 European Ryder Cup captain has been helping to develop the game.

“I came to Barassie to welcome Dale Donton, Ghana’s first representative at the Junior Open,” said McGinley as he watched the 13-year-old hit balls on the range before his round. “We have a number of projects happening in Ghana, supported by the R&A and Tullow Oil, where we are trying to encourage more people to play golf.

“It’s great to see the kids coming through at this level, both boys and girls. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to travel to new places and compete then watch The Open and see what it’s all about. Hopefully it energises them to go back home and practice hard and one day maybe some of them will get to play in The Open.”

The second round gets underway from 07.30 on Tuesday before the top 80 players and ties progress to the third and final round on Wednesday.