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Valadez Fires Second Round 66 to Claim Solo Lead at Byron Nelson Junior

DALLAS—Levi Valadez of San Antonio shot a 5-under-par 66 on Wednesday to become the outright leader after the second round at the Byron Nelson Junior Championship.

Valadez started the day at Lakewood Country Club two shots off the lead at 2-under 69. Six birdies later and he now has a two-shot lead over the field.

“I just played really well,” Valadez said. “I just had one mistake on the front nine, but besides that everything else was pretty solid. I am excited for tomorrow.”

Valadez said he can draw confidence from his two consecutive appearances at the U.S. Junior Amateur to help him through Thursday’s final round in the 54-hole, stroke play championship.

Before the day started, Valadez was chasing co-leaders, Shuai Ming Wong of Houston and Scott Roden of Dallas. Roden finished the day at 3-over and is tied for sixth. Wong had a better round than his playing partner but could not quite keep up pace with Valadez. He shot a 1-under 72 and is tied for second place with Plano’s Parker Coody, who made the biggest move in the second round.

Coody shot a 6-under 65 and moved four places up the leaderboard into a tie for second. The winner of the 2014 Texas State Junior Championship, Coody capped off his solid round with a difficult eagle putt on the par-5 17th that he made look easy.

“I was hitting a 2-iron off the tee, had a good number, hit another 2-iron to about 15 feet or so from the hole, and then I made that,” Coody said. “It was a pretty big moment.”

Tied with Coody for lowest score of the day was Sam Clayman of Dallas. He started the second round 6-over and seemingly out of contention. Then he rolled in six birdies with no bogeys to get his overall score back to even par. The key to Clayman’s round was not only his solid shot-making, but also the solid advice he got from his caddie, Will Zalatoris, an LJT veteran and winner of the 105th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity and 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur who is now a sophomore at Wake Forest. 

“Having Will on the bag this week has been good so far. He’s just had extra knowledge that has definitely helped me this week for sure,” Clayman said. “He’s been through as many junior tournaments as you could count and just obviously his experience has helped me with my confidence.”

Zalatoris guided Clayman to stay patient and hit fairways and greens without being overly aggressive. This seemed to be good advice, as Clay rolled in two 20-foot birdies, one 35-footer on the third hole and one 50-footer up the hill on the par-4 18th, his ninth hole of the day. In all, Zalatoris estimated Clayman rolled in 150 feet worth of putts.

The final round of the Byron Nelson Junior starts tomorrow at 8 a.m. at Lakewood Country Club. Thirty-two players of the original 78 made the 36-hole cut at 3-over or better on Wednesday.

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